Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Saturday expressed shock and disgust at attacks on immigrants in neighbouring South Africa and said his government was working to bring back home affected Zimbabwean citizens.
At least four people have been killed in a wave of anti-immigrant violence in South Africa that started two weeks ago in the port city of Durban and spread to Johannesburg.
Mugabe said during a speech at a football stadium in the capital Harare to mark 35 years of Zimbabwe’s independence that all Africans in South Africa should be treated with dignity.
“I would want now to express our sense of shock, disgust as we abhor the incidences which happened in Durban,” Mugabe said.
“The act of treating other Africans in that horrible way can never be condoned by anyone,” said the 91-year-old, speaking on behalf of the regional Southern African Development Community and African Union, both of which he currently chairs.
An estimated one million Zimbabweans live in South Africa having escaped an economic crisis and political violence at home over the last 15 years.
Periodic outbreaks of anti-immigrant violence in South Africa have been blamed on high unemployment, widespread poverty and glaring income disparities.
The Malawian government has hired buses to repatriate 500 of its nationals, Information Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa said on Friday. He urged South Africa to provide greater protection for immigrants, echoing demands from China and the African Union.
Mugabe said his government had put in place measures to bring back its citizens but did not give details.
The state-owned Herald newspaper reported that Zimbabwe planned to repatriate 1,000 citizens and was setting up a receiving center at Beitbridge, the biggest border post with South Africa.