Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said Wednesday African countries must stem the migration of their citizens to South Africa following an official complaint by South Africa to regional leaders meeting in Harare about being burdened by African immigrants.
“I am suggesting that we the neighbors do what we can to prevent people going to South Africa,” the 91-year-old told a news conference ending a Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting on industrialization.
Tension between South Africa and other African nations erupted recently following attacks on foreign nationals that killed seven people. Several foreign-owned businesses were also looted or burned down.
“People must get back to their own countries, many of our countries are very angry, the parents were very angry when they saw the pictures (of the xenophobic attacks)."
President Jacob Zuma of South Africa recently took aim at African leaders for contributing to the xenophobic attacks in his country by failing to address problems that drive away their people, forcing them to migrate to his country.
And on Wednesday, Mr. Zuma briefed the regional leaders on the attacks and urged them to take measures that address problems in their own nations.
But no specific measures were agreed.
While condemning the attacks, the SADC leaders commended the measures that South Africa “has put in place and resolved to work together to deal with the situation and ensure it does not recur.”
Mr. Mugabe said the majority of Zimbabweans who “jump the border” to South Africa are unskilled labor who trek out of choice.
He also singled out the Kalanga people, dominant in Matabeland South province, and accused them of being criminals who live off robbing other people in South Africa.
“…Minister (Simbarashe Mumbengegwi) was telling me the other day that one of his three nephews came back home; and he asked him what are the other two who remained doing, and he said they are … thieves.
“And they are not the only ones, crooks, stealing, beating people. The Kalangas were/are very notorious in South Africa, they are known to be crooks because they are not educated enough to get (descent) jobs,” said Mugabe.
He also criticized people from Matabeleland South region saying for them it’s just fashionable to go to South Africa.
“For our province Matabeleland South the men there as young boys; if you have not been to Johannesburg then you have not been to a place of good life. And it does not matter what you do.
“Each and everyone wants to have some message of escaping from home, get that message and get to South Africa somehow. They get to South Africa and assume names,” he said.
Mugabe’s remarks quickly sparked outrage with some accusing him of being a tribalist and out of lockstep with the economic reality his government’s policies have created for millions of people.
Media expert Zenzele Ndebele, a Kalanga, called Mugabe’s remarks insulting and disgusting.