Zuma finally speaks out on xenophobic attacks

Zuma urged people to treat those who are in our country legally with ‘respect and Ubuntu’.

President Jacob Zuma speaks at the unveiling of the Chris Hani monument in Boksburg. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma has finally spoken out about the xenophobic attacks on foreigners in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal saying the government is "deeply concerned".

Zuma's comments follow attacks on foreign nationals in Durban this week and clashes between Somalis and police during a failed march in the city centre.

WATCH: Zuma: Anger doesn't build a nation, it destroys it.

He spoke at the unveiling of a monument for murdered South African Communist Party (SACP) leader Chris Hani who he described as an internationalist welcomed by foreigners during his years in exile.

"We need to discuss and agree to be orderly, not chaotic. We don't want to show anger because anger does not build nations, it destroys nations."

Zuma added South Africa's national interests included the development of other African countries, and local citizens should therefore act with Ubuntu.

"We therefore urge our people to treat those who are in our country legally with respect and Ubuntu."

Zuma said while there was merit in claims that many foreign owned businesses operated illegally and without paying tax, there was no justification for attacking them.

"We also emphasise that no amount of economic hardship and discontent will ever justify attacking foreign nationals."

The president also called on Home Affairs to improve the way in which it tracked illegal foreigners in South Africa.

Meanwhile, Zuma said he was happy that the debate around the removal of apartheid and colonial statues had begun, but said they should not be destroyed and South Africans should forge a new common heritage.

Zuma said the debate should, however, be conducted in an orderly manner without chaos.

He called on South Africans to remember that tolerance was one of the trademarks of the transition to democracy, and said the debate should take place in a calm environment.

"We need to discuss and agree, be orderly, not chaotic, not show anger because anger does not build a nation, it destroys nations."

Chris Hani's wife Limpho Hani lays a wreath at her late husband's grave site in Boksburg during the officially opening of the grave as a heritage site on 10 April 2015. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN.

He added even the repulsive colonial and apartheid regimes need to be accepted as part of South Africa's history.

"If you read a history book, you don't take out the pages that are painful. History must be told. It's painful sometimes and devastating. What we should discuss therefore is the location of these colonial and apartheid artefacts."

The president's comments come just a day after the controversial Cecil John Rhodes statue was removed from UCT following a month of protests.

Other sculptures have been targeted in Port Elizabeth and Pretoria.