President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on South Africans to exercise tolerance and to fight xenophobia in all its forms.
This as the continent marks Africa Day on Wednesday, which is a commemoration of the 1963 founding of the African Union – known then as the Organisation of African Unity.
“As we address the critical issue of illegal immigration, as is our right as a sovereign nation, let us never become like the former oppressors, who sought to divide the African people and turn us against each other.
“Our brothers and sisters from elsewhere in Africa are not our enemies. Our common enemies are the scourges of poverty, crime, unemployment and social exclusion. We need to work together to defeat them, and not turn on each other as Africans,” the President said.
President Ramaphosa reflected that during the height of Apartheid, other African countries opened their borders to South Africans who were in the midst of the struggle for freedom.
According to the President, remnants of the presence of these freedom fighters can still be seen all across the continent where even South Africa’s most painful moments are commemorated and observed.
“Travelling across the continent, one sees streets and monuments dedicated to the leaders of South Africa’s liberation movement. Even today student movements and civic groups in some African countries commemorate events like the Soweto uprising. We will never forget this solidarity, nor the cost that came with it, particularly for our neighbours in the SADC region.
“South Africa must never be seen as a place of intolerance. This is not just an insult to the people of the continent who supported us and gave refuge to our leaders, but also a betrayal of our own Constitutional values,” he said.
Peace on the continent
President Ramaphosa said peace in Africa is an imperative that South Africa is committed to achieving.
“South Africa’s socio-economic development, stability and progress cannot be assured without a peaceful, integrated, prosperous continent. We will continue to contribute to this effort, whether it is through peacekeeping operations, through our role as AU Champion for COVID-19 response, or through supporting development projects through our African Renaissance Fund,” he said.
The President revealed that during this week, an African Union Summit will be held to address the illegal and violent government takeovers that have gripped East Africa and the rise in terrorist action on the continent.
“South Africa will be participating in two important African Union summits in Equatorial Guinea later this week that will be addressing the issues of terrorism and unconstitutional changes of government, and humanitarian assistance. The continent’s collective action on each of these issues are vital to peace and stability in Africa,” he said.