Zuma: We should all be tackling xenophobia

Zuma says after the deadly xenophobic attacks in 2008, government didn't believe they'd happen again.

FILE: President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANENSBURG - President Jacob Zuma says all sectors of society including business, religious and civic organisations should be addressing the scourge of xenophobia.

The president was speaking after a multisectoral meeting in Pretoria which discussed migration policy.

Zuma says after the deadly 2008 wave of xenophobic attacks, government did not believe it would happen again.

The president is particularly concerned with the way the violence has spread to different parts of the country and has affected the global image of South Africa.

He says representatives from just about every sector of South African society participated in the talks.

"So the issue we're dealing with today, was what is it that we are all going to do as a country, as citizens, as different sectors, to ensure that it will never happen again."

Leaders from each of the sectors briefly addressed the media, and are united in helping the government halt the wave of violence.

The president says issues related to immigration legislation were also discussed.

Meanwhile, amid heightened security in Alexandra, an Ethiopian man who hid in a fridge during a recent xenophobic attack has told Eyewitness News he doesn't feel safe in South Africa and is desperate to leave.

Safi Jarson was forced to hide out in a deep freezer for 30 minutes while his shop was looted in the township last week.

He says he returned to the area yesterday once the army was deployed.

After confirmation from defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula that the army has been deployed in Alexandra, the township appears to be calm, and police have confirmed that no further incidents of violence have been reported.

But 21-year-old Jarson says he is prepared to go anywhere in the world as long as he leaves South Africa.

He's told EWN how he hid in a fridge as none of the locals could protect him out of fear that they too would be attacked.

He says he came to South Africa in 2012 when his parents died in the hope of making a new life for himself, but three years later he's been left in financial ruin and is afraid to walk the streets.

IMMIGRATION LEGISLATION UNDER SCRUTINY

The president says South Africa's immigration legislation and how the country integrates refugees has come under the microscope in the wake of deadly xenophobic attacks.

Zuma says South Africa's relatively liberal laws on asylum seekers featured on today's agenda.

"We have immigration laws that are unique in a sense because the way we handle refugees and is not by creating camps but by integrating them into society."

He did not say what was proposed in relation to the legislation, but government has in the past ruled out the possibility of setting up refugee camps.

Representatives from religious and civic organisations as well as business and labour have all committed to helping government halt the violence.