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Zimbabwe Ambassador Heckled at Slain Elvis Nyathi's Memorial Service


David Hamadziripi, Zimbabwe's Ambassador to South Africa, and Velempini Ndlovu, a relative of the late Elvis Nyathi.

Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa, David Hamadziripi, was on Thursday booed when he attempted to make remarks at a memorial service of Elvis Nyathi, who was killed by a vigilante group in the country’s Diepsloot township last week.

Hamadziripi had to leave the hall in Johannesburg as some Zimbabweans attending the event heckled him, claiming that his government is to blame for Nyathi’s death.

The irate Zimbabweans said President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government forced them to leave the country to seek work in South Africa earning meager wages far below the breadline.

Speaking soon after the event, Hamadziripi said, “In situations like this there would always be comments that are made … The government of Zimbabwe is doing all it can. It’s engaging the South African government in order to secure the safety of our nationals in this country.”

Nyathi worked in the Johannesburg metropolitan region as a domestic worker.

Peter Moshosho, a South African citizen and chairperson of Africa Simunye, and a colleague attending Elvis Nyathi's memorial service
Peter Moshosho, a South African citizen and chairperson of Africa Simunye, and a colleague attending Elvis Nyathi's memorial service

Peter Moshosho, a South African citizen and chairperson of Africa Simunye, apologized on behalf of locals for the brutal death of the Zimbabwean.

“Generally, I would like to apologize to Zimbabweans because we are not expecting as South Africans that thugs in South Africa can kill our fellow black brother in South Africa. So, that’s why I’m saying we really apologize for that. I’m a Zimbabwean, I’m a South African, I’m a Mozambican, I’m Sotho, I’m a Nigerian. Africa must be one and we want one currency.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa recently condemned Nyathi’s killing saying it was unAfrican.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says South Africans should fight crime in their country instead of attacking immigrants.

In a statement, Ramaphosa reminded locals that the country’s constitution promotes democratic values, social justice and human rights.

Some of the people who attended Elvis Nyathi's memorial service in Johannesburg on Thurday. (Photo: Thuso Khumalo)
Some of the people who attended Elvis Nyathi's memorial service in Johannesburg on Thurday. (Photo: Thuso Khumalo)

He said, “When our forebears drafted the Freedom Charter in 1955, whose principles have been incorporated in our constitution, and declared that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, they were seeking a society free from ethnic chauvinism, tribalism, racism and sexism. It is therefore deeply disturbing how the recent incidents of anti-foreigner sentiment in parts of the country echo our apartheid past.

“We have seen people being stopped on the street by private citizens and being forced to produce identification to verify their immigration status. We have seen some political leaders making unscientific statements about immigrants to exploit people’s grievances for political gain. We have seen marches being led on people’s homes and their dwellings raided for evidence of criminal activity. We have seen people being attacked, hurt and even killed because of how they looked or because they have a particular accent.”

He made these remarks at a time some South Africans killed a Zimbabwean immigrant, Elvis Ncube, by dousing him with gasoline and setting him on fire using vehicle tyres.

The family and friends of the late Elvis Ncube attending his memorial service in Johannesburg.
The family and friends of the late Elvis Ncube attending his memorial service in Johannesburg.

Ramaphosa said, “This was how the apartheid oppressors operated. They said some people could only live in certain areas, operate certain businesses or take certain jobs. Under apartheid, black people were deemed suspects by default and stopped by police when found in so-called white areas. Black people were forced to produce a dompas and if they could not do so, they were jailed. We cannot allow such injustices to happen again.

“The events in the Gauteng township of Diepsloot last week were a tragedy. In the course of a single weekend, seven people were killed, sparking protests. This loss of life is deplorable, as is the killing of a fellow African from Zimbabwe allegedly at the hands of vigilantes. Crime is a serious problem in this country. It affects all communities and people are justifiably tired of living in fear of criminals.”

Ramaphosa noted that contrary to what is claimed by some anti-immigration groupings and individuals, the perpetrators of crime are both black and white, male and female, foreigner and citizen.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

“Crime, not migrants, is the common enemy we must work together to defeat. We cannot defeat crime through incitement, violence, intimidation and vigilantism aimed at foreign nationals, and specifically nationals from other African countries. We acknowledge many communities are frustrated by the apparent inability of the police to deal with criminals. Among the measures we are taking to capacitate the police is the recruitment of an additional 12,000 additional police officers.

“We are also re-establishing community policing forums (CPFs) across the country. These forums bring communities and police representatives together to improve local safety and hold police accountable. Communities need to work with the police by actively participating in CPFs and reporting suspected acts of criminality.”

He said as South Africa intensifies its fight against crime, there is no justification for people taking the law into their own hands.

“At the same time, we recognise that illegal migration poses a risk to South Africa’s security, stability and economic progress. Illegal migration affects service delivery and places additional burdens on essential services such as health care and education. Like any sovereign nation, we have the right to implement policies and measures that guarantee the integrity of our borders, protect the rights of South Africans and provide that all who reside in our borders have a legal right to be here.

“Controlling migration is the responsibility of government. No private citizen may assume the role of immigration or law enforcement authorities by demanding that foreign nationals produce identification. Under Section 41 of the Immigration Act, only a police member or immigration officer can ask someone to identify themselves as a citizen, permanent resident or foreign national. If these officers believe, on reasonable grounds, that the person is in the country unlawfully, they may be detained while an investigation into their status is conducted. When doing so, law enforcement authorities must respect that person’s rights and dignity. They may not do so in a manner that is degrading or humiliating.”

The South African president further said enforcement of migration legislation is a priority for government.

Gibbs Dube and Thuso Khumalo contributed to his article

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