By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG (AA) - South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday used Africa Day to urge his countrymen to coexist with African migrants, who are targets of anti-immigrant attacks that are common in the country.
In a statement, Ramaphosa said tensions between South Africans and nationals of other African countries were a troubling reminder that the divisions fomented by successive colonial and apartheid administrations had not yet been fully eradicated.
He said attacking and intimidating African nationals by some in the country is like replicating tactics used by the former apartheid regime.
Anti-immigrant attacks are common in South Africa, where locals usually accuse migrants of taking their jobs, crowding social services and committing crimes.
Recently, vigilante groups have been moving from door to door in some townships hunting down alleged illegal immigrants.
In April a mob in Diepsloot, an informal settlement near Johannesburg, killed a Zimbabwean national whom they accused of being illegal in the country.
“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,” said Ramaphosa.
Africa Day is commemorated every year on May 25 to mark the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Ethiopia, which is now known as the African Union.
South Africa joined the OAU on May 23, 1994, after it attained its liberation from the apartheid regime.
Ramaphosa said Africa Day is an opportunity for South Africans to learn more about the role that other African countries played in the struggle for their freedom.
“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.
Ramaphosa emphasized that South Africa must never be seen as a place of intolerance because this would not just be an insult to the people of the continent who supported them but would also be a betrayal to the country’s own constitutional values.