(2015-05-21) South African President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday apologized to Mozambique for the xenophobic attacks earlier this year against foreigners living in South Africa, in which three Mozambicans died.
Zuma, who is on a two day state visit to Mozambique, offered the apology during a meeting with his Mozambican counterpart, Filipe Nyusi.
“It is important that I apologise, in the name of a small minority of South Africans who carried out these atrocious acts”, said Zuma. “We bear in mind that the people of South Africa and Mozambique have been together for centuries and never had any problems”.
He insisted that Mozambique and South Africa remain “brothers”, and pledged that the South African authorizes are working hard so that acts of xenophobic violence “are never again repeated”.
Speaking at a press conference after the meeting between the two leaders, the South African Foreign Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, asked how often South Africa would have to apologise for repeated acts of xenophobia, replied “what we must do is look at how determined we are to solve this problem”.
She added that “we have to guarantee that, in this process, we can eliminate all the bad elements, and that these people who do not represent our government are removed”.
Asked about “Operation Fiela”, under which many hundreds of illegal immigrants are being deported from South Africa, Nkoana-Mashabane claimed that it was only targeting criminals, and was not an attack “against those foreigners who are contributing to the development f our economy”.
She said that during the meeting with Nyusi, Zuma promised there would be no forced deportation of Mozambicans or of other citizens to their home countries.
Yet this is precisely what happened last Friday, when 420 Mozambicans who had been living illegally in South Africa were repatriated. They were among 947 Mozambicans detained in the South African police sweep, in a move that, according to Mozambican Foreign Minster Oldemiro Baloi, took the Mozambican authorities by surprise.
Nkoana-Mashabane said the two Presidents had also discussed economic relations. South Africa is Mozambique’s largest trading partner, and “trade has doubled since we last reviewed this area”, the Minister added.
Baloi told the press conference that the two governments should be in more regular communication, in order to avoid any future crises.
“We spoke of the need to meet more frequency, because this should function as a preventive mechanism”, he said.
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