Xenophobia? What xenophobia? Ministers prefer the term 'criminality'
Ministers participating in a debate on the recent wave of violence continued with the government's longstanding narrative that these attacks are "criminality" and not xenophobia.
Tuesday's urgent debate in the National Assembly on a matter of national importance, under the theme of the "recent incidents of violence and criminality in the country, including those affecting foreign nationals", was introduced by the IFP's Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
"Our Constitution enshrines the right to freedom from all forms of violence. That right applies to everyone in South Africa, whether citizens or not. Attacks on foreign nationals and their businesses is a violation of human rights and a violation of our Constitution," he said after defending himself against remarks by Police Minister Bheki Cele.
Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the incidents were "mostly acts of criminality irrespective of the nationality of those involved".
She said 10 out of the 12 people killed in these attacks were South Africans, which "debunks" the notion that the attacks are xenophobia-fueled.
"Crime is crime," she added.
"It is not South African to hate thy neighbour," she said.
She said the country must continue its fight against inequality and implement the National Development Plan.
"We need to resuscitate the voice of the moral regeneration movement," she said.
"There is a need for deepened interaction across race, class and nationality."
When Mapisa-Nqakula spoke about morality and ethics, DA chief whip John Steenhuisen heckled her about the allegations against her that she used a state jet to illegally bring a young woman into the country.
Mapisa-Nqakula didn't respond while she delivered her speech, but after deputy speaker Lechesa Tsenoli called time on her address, she said Steenhuisen was making a mockery of the debate.
Steenhuisen got up and said she is a "human trafficker" while talking about morals and ethics.
ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude said Steenhuisen is out of order.
Steenhuisen apologised to Tsenoli, who said he would look into the matter and report back to the house at a later stage.
ANC MP Jacqueline Mofokeng said the accusations that South Africans were xenophobic and Afro-phobic were fake and would continue to be proven false.
She said the ANC condemned the "criminality and violence" and urged "our guests" to live free in South Africa and respect our laws.
Cele closed the debate.
"We had a terrible week. We had a terrible week, especially with our young women," he stated.
Turning to the public violence, he said: "We are dealing with criminality."
"For us, it's nothing to do with xenophobia, it's criminality," he said.
To illustrate his point he said that it wasn't only shops owned by foreign nationals that were torched.
DA MP Andrew Whitfield criticised the intelligence services for not providing information necessary to quell the outbreaks.
Cele said this criticism is unfounded, as the intelligence services help prevent more attacks than those that took place.
"We're saying the South African Police have done a good job," Cele proudly stated.
Opposition speakers generally didn't avoid linking the attacks to xenophobia.
The general slant of the debate was that South Africa's immigration processes should be tightened to prevent undocumented immigrants.
Whitfield warned against scapegoating and called out EFF leader Julius Malema and ANC secretary general Ace Magashule for recent comments blaming white people.
EFF MP Reneiloe Mashabela said the "upsurge in attacks" on people from other countries were sponsored by the state, when the police raided foreign-owned shops for counterfeit goods.
She complained that only Africans were raided, while the "China Mall" was not.
She said "white monopoly capital" and "the descendants of colonial looters" were responsible.
FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said Parliament sets the example that if you differ with someone, violence should be used. He called for greater respect.