By Lincoln Towindo
South African Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula has backtracked on the comments he made last week concerning ex-Zimbabwean soldiers whom he accused of illegally entering South Africa to rob and kill.
The minister claims his statement was taken out of context.
Mbalula raised fears of igniting xenophobic attacks after informing SA journalists that Zimbabwean army deserters were responsible for violent crimes in South Africa. The statements drew widespread condemnation.
But in an about-turn, Mbalula’s spokesperson Mr Vuyo Muhanga told The Sunday Mail last night that the minister’s statements were taken out of context.
“The statement was taken completely out of context,” said Mr Muhanga.
“When the minister was speaking he was speaking to two specific issues.
“The first being about the crime in an incident involving the five men who were responsible for robbing a jeweller in Johannesburg that happened recently and this was only an isolated incident.
“The other issue he touched on was that of the many educated Zimbabweans we have contributing to South African development, which is one of the attributes the Zimbabwean Government is praised for.
“Basically, it was not a blanket statement and needs to be properly qualified in its proper context. He was simply referring to one isolated incident.
“We have many Zimbabweans living here in peace whom the minister said are more educated than some South Africans.”
Mbalula was widely quoted in the media last week after claiming that “Zimbabweans enter the country illegally and they just come here not to promote goodwill”.
“There are people who come here from Zimbabwe, and they cross the line here. They run away from military in Zimbabwe and they come here and promote criminality here in South Africa.
“There are Zimbabwean ex-soldiers who are in this country, robbing banks and promoting criminality.“They are running away from uncle Bob (President Mugabe) there,” Mbalula told journalists in Pretoria.
“In Zimbabwe once you are a soldier, you are a soldier for life. You can’t get out of it. So to get out of it they run to South Africa, then they come here and rob banks.
“They are on the payroll of criminals and we can’t trace them. If a South African steals, it’s easy to trace them because I will find you somewhere in the forensics because I have your fingerprints. I’ve got you all covered, South Africans.”
South Africa is home to thousands of Zimbabweans living and working there. Widespread xenophobic violence often breaks out in South Africa, mostly at the instigation of political leaders. The violence is often targeted at African migrants. The Sunday Mail