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African politicians label Donald Trump a racist

The US president had questioned why it would want immigrants from 'shithole' countries like Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations during a briefing on draft immigration legislation.

FILE: US president Donald Trump. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG/NEW YORK - African politicians have labelled US President Donald Trump a racist after he reportedly used an expletive to denigrate developing countries.

Trump had questioned why the United States would want immigrants from 'shithole' countries like Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations during a briefing on draft immigration legislation.

South Africa's governing African National Congress has described his reported comment as "extremely offensive", while Botswana says it’s highly irresponsible and racist.

Washington’s ambassador to Gaborone’s been summoned to tell the Botswana government whether Trump numbers the Southern African nation among the countries dismissed with a scatological epithet.

WATCH: Duarte reacts to Trump's comments

Trump now appears to be denying using the crude words attributed to him.

The US president has come under immense fire for his comments which is the latest in a string of derogatory statements he’s used to describe immigrants.

Trump has since tweeted the language he used was tough, but the reported words are not precisely the ones he used.

The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and New York Times all reported on the comments, quoting witnesses or people briefed on the meeting.

The White House has not denied the comments.

On the streets of Lusaka, capital of the southern African country of Zambia, Trump’s reported remark reinforced long-held views about the US leader.

“Trump has always been a racist, only a racist can use such foul language,” said Nancy Mulenga, a student at the University of Zambia. Robert Chiponda, a communications consultant in Lusaka, said he never took Trump seriously.

NO COMMENT

The South African Department of International Relations says it won't comment on Trump's utterances.

International relations expert professor John Stremlau says commenting on the statement would give it undeserved attention.

“One doesn’t really need statements. The comments by Trump, credibly reported in the Washington Post, has been picked up by everyone else who was in the room, is so outrageous that you just let it sit and hang out there.”

UN CONDEMNS COMMENTS

The United Nations Human Rights office on Friday rejected as “racist” and inciting xenophobia the reported remarks by Trump.

One United Nations official said they opened the door to humanity’s worst side.

“These are shocking and shameful comments from the President of the United States. There is no other word one can use but ‘racist’,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a Geneva news briefing when asked about the comments.

“You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome,” he added.

The issue was more than “vulgar language”, Colville said.

“It’s about opening the door to humanity’s worst side, about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia that will potentially disrupt and destroy lives of many people.”

WATCH: Trump's 'shithole' comments spark global backlash

Trump had also failed to clearly condemn the “anti-Semitic and racist actions of white supremacists in Charlottesville” at a rally in Virginia last August, Colville said.

The programme that was being discussed at the White House is called Temporary Protected Status.

In November, the Trump administration decided to end the status for immigrants from Haiti and Nicaragua. It gave the approximately 59,000 Haitian immigrants who had been granted the status until July 2019 to return home or legalize their presence in the United States. Nicaraguans were given until January 2019.

“The future of the Dreamers should not be used as a bargaining chip to negotiate the most severe and restrictive immigration and security measures possible. These are human beings, not commodities,” Colville said.

“Dreamers” is term used for undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States as children.

William Spindler, a UN refugee agency spokesman, declined to comment directly on Trump’s purported remarks: “But what I can say is that UNHCR’s position is always that people forced to flee war or persecution, and needing asylum, should be given protection by whichever country they are in, irrespective of race, religion, ethnicity or place or country of origin,” Spindler said.

Others used humour to ridicule the offensive comments.

“As someone from South Shithole, Trevor is deeply offended by the president’s remarks,” US television programme The Daily Show wrote on Twitter, referring to its South Africa-born host Trevor Noah.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)

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