By Leopold Munhende
SOUTH African President Cyril Ramaphosa was Saturday forced to issue an apology to Zimbabweans over deadly xenophobic attacks targeted at their compatriots in his country.
This is after his condolence speech was partly drowned by some booing by mourners at late former President Robert Mugabe’s memorial service at the National Sports Stadium.
Mourners, angry at how some South Africans are beating and killing foreigners including Zimbabweans in the recent spate of xenophobic attacks, forced Ramaphosa to deviate from his condolence message.
“I can hear you are responding to the deaths of foreign nationals in South Africa. I stand before you to regret and apologise for what has happened to them.
“What has happened in South Africa goes against the principles that President Mugabe, Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo stood for.
“I stand before you as a fellow African to say we are working very hard to encourage all our people in South Africa to embrace people from all African countries,” said the South African leader.
Some 171 Zimbabweans have been affected by the violence that has also claimed 12 lives, according to an official account of the disturbances.
Two Zimbabweans have been killed.
Already Nigeria has started evacuation some 600 000 of its citizens based in the economic giant while the Zimbabwean government is also making efforts to evacuate the affected.
Information Ministry Permanent Secretary Nick Mangwana played down the mourners’ response to Ramaphosa.
“President Ramaphosa apologised for what is happening in South Africa. The people were not happy about the manner in which he started but as you saw they were happy in the end,” he said.
Mugabe’s memorial service was attended by several African heads of State and government, and their predecessors.
Among the foreign leaders are Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Mozambique’s Philippe Nyusi and Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.