Zuma pastor ‘not sorry’

As xenophobic violence fuelled by toxic messages on social media creates a diplomatic fallout, a KZN pastor linked to former president Jacob Zuma has been thrust into the spotlight following a string of anti-foreigner posts.

Bishop Timothy Ngcobo, who is also the founder of the recently-launched African Freedom Revolution (AFR) political party, has allegedly been put under surveillance by KZN police after a string of anti-foreigner messages have been disseminated from both his personal and AFR WhatsApp accounts.

According to police sources, Ngcobo had been put under surveillance after former community safety MEC Mxolisi Kaunda — who was recently elected eThekwini mayor — complained that statements and social media messages sent out by Ngcobo had the potential to cause public unrest.

A source within the provincial police’s crime intelligence unit said they were investigating “inflammatory statements which police suspect were designed to incite local communities to commit acts of violence against foreign nationals”.

Ngcobo is known for praying for Zuma at court during the former president’s court appearances in Durban and Pietermaritzburg in connection with corruption charges Zuma faces for his role in the arms deal in the 90s.

One of the social media messages circulating within both the AFR and Ngcobo’s WhatsApp groups discourages locals from buying food from foreign-owned shops as the shop owners were “planning to poison all South Africans through the products they sell in their shops” as revenge for the xenophobic attacks.

Contacted for comment, Ngcobo was unapologetic for the posts, which appear to be fake news designed to create anti-foreigner sentiments within communities.

“It will be difficult for me to interpret each and every post on the WhatsApp group as there are lots of people who are part of the groups.

“However, the message which we are sending out is very simple: all foreign nationals in this country should go back home,” he said.

Asked whether the peddling of anti-foreigner messages on WhatsApp groups linked to him does not border on criminality, Ngcobo was adamant that he had done nothing wrong.

“Whoever wants to arrest me is welcome to do so, I’m not scared of anything. What is important for me is that poor communities out there who are struggling to access economic opportunities and state facilities such as clinics as a direct result of the influx of foreign nationals should know that I’m being arrested for telling the truth.

“The problem we have in this country is that government leaders who want nothing to be done about the issue of foreign nationals are not affected by the problem as they have access to economic opportunities and all the other things which the poor are being denied,’’ he said.

Mluleki Mtungwa, who was Kaunda’s spokesperson until last week when the former MEC was deployed to eThekwini Municipality, said he will check with senior officials at the department to establish whether a report around Ngcobo’s activities had been compiled.

On Monday, the Nigerian government announced that it would be repatriating 600 of its citizens from South Africa following the xenophobic attacks.