Mugabe "disgusted" by South African anti-immigrant violence
Published 18/04/2015 | 16:49
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said he was "shocked and disgusted" at attacks on immigrants in neighbouring South Africa, saying that his government welcome home any affected citizens.
At least four people have been killed in a wave of anti-immigrant violence in South Africa that started two weeks ago in the port city of Durban and spread to Johannesburg.
Mugabe said during a speech at a football stadium in the capital Harare to mark 35 years of Zimbabwe's independence that all Africans in South Africa should be treated with dignity.
"I would want now to express our sense of shock, disgust as we abhor the incidences which happened in Durban," Mugabe said.
"The act of treating other Africans in that horrible way can never be condoned by anyone," said the 91-year-old, speaking on behalf of the regional Southern African Development Community and African Union, both of which he currently chairs.
An estimated one million Zimbabweans live in South Africa having escaped an economic crisis and political violence at home over the last 15 years.
Read More: Immigrants close shops as anti-foreigner violence grips South Africa
Periodic outbreaks of anti-immigrant violence in South Africa have been blamed on high unemployment, widespread poverty and glaring income disparities.
The Malawian government has hired buses to repatriate 500 of its nationals, Information Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa said on Friday.
He urged South Africa to provide greater protection for immigrants, echoing demands from China and the African Union.
Mugabe said his government had put in place measures to bring back its citizens but did not give details.
The state-owned Herald newspaper reported that Zimbabwe planned to repatriate 1,000 citizens and was setting up a receiving centre at Beitbridge, the biggest border post with South Africa.
Meanwhile South Africa's President Jacob Zuma was forced to cancel a state visit to Indonesia to deal with the wave of anti-immigrant violence.
Promising peace to those who wished to remain in Africa's most advanced economy, he said: "We are certainly going to stop the violence."
"Those who want to go home, when the violence stops you are welcome to return," he added, addressing immigrants who planned to board buses provided by their governments to take them back to their countries.
Violence flared after Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini reportedly told foreigners to leave the country.
He has since said his comments were misinterpreted and on Saturday attempted to defuse tensions.
"Anyone who is waiting for an order from Zwelithini to attack people, no. No," eNCA reported the king as saying during a traditional ceremony in rural KwaZulu-Natal.