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South African Police Chief Defends Decision To Authorise Anti-Immigrant March

Acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane has dismissed suggestions that the march was aimed at foreigners.

Group of protesters says they want to search foreign owned shops. Picture: Clement Manyathela/EWN.

PRETORIA – Acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane has defended the decision to authorise Friday’s anti-immigrant march in Pretoria, saying people have the right to express their views.

The police had their hands full in Atteridgeville, Marabastad, the Pretoria inner city and Sunnyside, trying to prevent clashes between citizens and non-nationals.

Stun grenades, rubber bullets and water cannon were used to control the situation, while at least 137 people were arrested in the capital during anti-xenophobia operations.

Despite the march explicitly being touted as being against immigrants and not anti-drug or anti-crime, Lieutenant Phahlane says it was legitimately approved.

“Our Constitution provides for people to express their views. Facts before the authorities were considered and they deemed it fit that with what was at their disposal, that the march is granted.”

He has dismissed suggestions that the march was aimed at foreigners.

“The march was about people, amongst others, that are not South African nationals involved in crime.”

Phahlane says the police will remain on high alert and deployed at hotspot areas.

Watch the violent scene of the anti-immigrant protest in Pretoria

I DOUBT SOUTH AFRICANS ARE XENOPHOBIC

Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma has described the outbreak of violence during the march as complex, saying South Africans and foreign nationals need to be understanding of one another.

President Zuma was speaking on the sidelines at the launch of Operation Phakisa in Pretoria.

He said South Africa has a leading economy on the continent and that’s why many people migrate here.

The president said the outbreak of violence in Pretoria is not xenophobic but is really aimed at crime.

He also urged political leaders visiting the affected areas not to say the wrong things.

“Let us help to cool down the situation; make people understand, talk to the police and talk to the foreigners. That is what they should do rather than be making statements that actually exacerbate the feelings of the people.”

Zuma said whether South Africans are xenophobic or not is up for debate but that he doubts South Africans are xenophobic.

“I think we love using phrases in South Africa that at the time cause unnecessary perceptions about us. I think we are not [xenophobic], it’s not the first time we’re with the foreigners here.”

He said government does know many foreign nationals who come here aren’t refugees but are looking for jobs and to make a better living.

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