President Jacob Zuma says he is still shocked by xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals as the South African Football Association (Safa) reiterated the need to have friendly football matches as part of the healing process.
Addressing a SayNoToXenophobia forum at Luthuli House, Johannesburg on Monday, President Zuma said events of the past few days had left the country embarrassed and without answers in the face of world condemnation.
“What are we telling the world about us?” he asked rhetorically.
At a meeting attended by among others ANC stalwarts Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, treasurer Dr. Zweli Mkhize, Chairperson Ms. Baleka Mbete and football heavyweights – Safa President Dr Danny Jordaan, PSL Chairman Dr Irvin Khoza, Bafana Bafana Head Coach Ephraim Shakes Mashaba and Kaizer Chiefs Football Manager Bobby Motaung – President Zuma reminded all South Africans that during the liberation struggle most cadres travelled to and even stayed in foreign countries without any documentation.
“We went into these countries without a single documentation, stayed there and were welcome with open arms because they saw us as one of them. In fact they treated us as their own brothers and sisters.
“We must learn to be friendly to our African brothers and, in fact, everyone from this world,” he said, adding that those fanning these violent acts were just a minority who had criminal tendencies but hiding behind xenophobia.
He said the flip side of what was happening was that now all South Africans were being painted with the same brush yet those engaging in these acts were very few individuals.
Dr Jordaan said normal thinking people should not be quiet about what was happening. He added that the xenophobic acts go against the beliefs of what this country fought for.
The Safa President said the 2010 Fifa World Cup had gone a long way in uniting this continent but events of the past few days had done some considerable damage and reversed the gains of the first World Cup on African soil.
Dr Jordaan also warned those promoting xenophobia that South Africa was part of this continent and for our teams and clubs to get into the world, had to pass through the continent.
“We are bound to this wonderful continent. Our teams travel and play on this continent. We say no to xenophobia because football is played in a peaceful environment.”
The Safa President said the Association was busy organising friendly matches to help with the healing process and unite people from all walks of life.
Dr Khoza said the public had a duty to identify these criminals saying most of them brazenly appear on television cameras, give interviews but are never arrested.
“These people are known in our societies and must be brought to book,” he said, “Africa has probably the most welcoming people on earth. Wherever I go on this continent, I am welcomed with great respect.”
Bobby Motaung said since independence, this country had gained a lot from outside expertise and was shocked at the behaviour of those promoting xenophobia.
“Now what am I supposed to tell my players who are not from here. These people who perpetuate xenophobia do not have the interest of this country at heart, they are just pure thugs and we as football administrators must take an undivided stand to condemn such acts,” he said.
Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba said Africans are known for loving each other and what was happening here was against the fundamentals of African culture.