Buthelezi begs angry crowd to calm down as he speaks against xenophobia

08 September 2019 - 13:49 By PENWELL DLAMINI AND ALON SKUY
Protesters from various hostels in eastern Johannesburg marched along Jules Street on September 8 2019. Carrying weapons, including knobkerries, the men sang, 'foreigners must go back to where they came from'.
Protesters from various hostels in eastern Johannesburg marched along Jules Street on September 8 2019. Carrying weapons, including knobkerries, the men sang, 'foreigners must go back to where they came from'.
Image: Alon Skuy

IFP president emeritus Mangosuthu Buthelezi on Sunday battled to quell tensions in Johannesburg as he spoke out against xenophobic violence.

Sections of the crowd at the gathering in Jeppestown walked out as he addressed them.

Buthelezi delivered his speech despite the disruption.

According to a prepared speech, the veteran politician told them: "Looting and destruction of property is a crime. Full stop. Assault is always wrong."


LISTEN | What Police Minister General Bheki Cele plans to do about violent looting in Gauteng


In contrast to the message he was delivering, protesters from various hostels in eastern Johannesburg marched along Jules Street earlier on Sunday. Carrying weapons, including knobkerries, the men sang: "Foreigners must go back to where they came from".

During the gathering in Jeppestown, Buthelezi begged the crowd to calm down, saying the xenophobic attacks had already set South Africa on a path to isolation.

"I'm not here to judge but to mediate," said Buthelezi.

Throughout his speech, a portion of the crowd kept shouting at him.

Hammering sticks on the fence, the crowd walked around the park where Buthelezi was speaking and even fired gunshots in the air.

After walking around the park, the group returned to the venue and began shouting that police minister Bheki Cele must address them.

Cele was not at the venue despite being the one who announced the gathering earlier in the week. Hostel headmen (izinduna) tried several times to call the angry crowd to order.

On Tuesday, Cele had met community leaders and business owners in Jeppestown, also in a bid to calm tensions, following the looting of mostly foreign-owned shops that began in the area last weekend. Violence quickly spread to other areas in Gauteng province, causing havoc for police and government.

The group of hostel dwellers has maintained that they want foreign nationals to leave.

Siphiwe Mhlongo, chair of hostel headmen (izinduna) in Gauteng, who spoke to Sowetan ahead of Buthelezi's address, said: "We are not happy with how government has tried to resolve the problems that the country is facing. The government must come speak to the people and explain what it is going to do with the foreign nationals who are here illegally."

He said the residents were angry about jobs allegedly being taken by foreign nationals, unhappy about foreigner involvement in drug dealing and that free government housing is being provided to foreigners.

"Everyone who is in SA has that feeling that foreign nationals must go back home. But we don't say foreign nationals must be beaten up; we are leaders."

In his prepared speech, Buthelezi said: "I understand the tensions, the complaints and the anger ... In every family there are quarrels and squabbles. But the way we are behaving is shooting ourselves in the foot. We are making the name SA a swear word on the continent."

As the group began returning to Jeppe hostel on Sunday afternoon, reports were circulated of marchers damaging property close to the Maboneng precinct.


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