Hon Deputy Speaker, hon President, hon Ministers and Deputy Ministers, hon members of this House, in the midst of a crisis, leaders must act. We are in a crisis. As our nation grapples with the horror of gender-based violence, a new wave of xenophobic attacks has washed over South Africa. Lives have been lost and property damaged. There has been looting and burning and violence. Families have been left destitute, fearing for their lives. While all this is happening, the world is watching, and we are being judged.
We know that the violence has sprung from our own people's despair and frustration. Yet, the response is wrong. It must be stopped. Knowing this, I went on Sunday to Johannesburg to speak to my fellow South Africans; not to take sides, but to quell the tensions with the voice of truth. I stated very clearly that I was there, not as a politician, but as an elder. I was there for the sake of my country.
Tragically, the night before Sunday's meeting, bottle stores were looted and several angry township and hostel residents arrived still inebriated. They were in no mood to hear a message
of peace or to be reminded of our Constitution. Nevertheless, the truth was spoken, and it had an impact.
Was I right to go? I question. To my mind, it would have been a dereliction of duty not to go. In fact, that is what I said to Minister Cele. I advised him that I was going to Johannesburg and he expressed his gratitude, offering to arrange security. So I am dumb-stuck, hon Minister, by your comment yesterday that you were taken aback by my visit to Johannesburg, as though what I did was political posturing. The insinuation is there that, had I not gone to Johannesburg, the looting and violence that continued on Sunday would not have happened.
Hon Minister, do you know why I went? I was not stealing anyone's thunder or scoring political points. I am too old for political games. I went in good faith, accepting my responsibility to act to quell the violence. There are diplomatic and economic ramifications to what our people are doing.
When I spoke about our brotherhood on the African continent and when I reminded us of the risks and sacrifices many African countries took to support our liberation struggle, I was speaking as someone who is part of that history. When I spoke about the need to resolve undocumented migration, I was speaking as South Africa's first Minister of Home Affairs under democracy, having grappled with these issues for 10 years in the Cabinets of President Mandela and President Mbeki.
When I warned that we are fighting our own family and starting a feud that can only end in tragedy, I was speaking as the traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation.
Hon Minister Cele has informed me that those who were looting were seen running into the hostels, suggesting that some of them may be Zulus. I apologised to His Majesty the King on Saturday at the Reed Dance Ceremony, saying that I had to leave to go to Johannesburg.
When I spoke there against withholding justice from foreigners, I was speaking as a Christian. For all these reasons, I had a
responsibility to act. To say now that I was scoring political points or doing something unexpected is simply deceitful. I have been vilified for too long to speak diplomatically. I am sick of the IFP being cast as responsible for violence, either obliquely or directly.
The simple fact is I have the temerity to walk into difficult situations, knowing that I cannot please everyone, and I will be attacked. But that is part of the job of being a leader. I will always be willing walk into danger, either physical or political, for the sake of saving lives. And to me, lives are lives. 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 are a violation of human rights and a violation of our Constitution.
I understand the tensions and the valid complaints. Wrongs have been committed by both sides. This violence has not come out of nowhere. But there is a saying in Zulu that you cannot slaughter all the sheep because one sheep has transgressed. We are making
South Africa a swear word, my dear comrades - a swear word on the continent, and a laughing stock in the rest of the world. Because the world knows what we are so quick to forget that Africans are family.
Hon Deputy Speaker, I was humbled when His Majesty the King of Lesotho who privately came to my house to comfort me when my wife died - a head of state because we are one family. I recall when I spoke to him that I met his father when I accompanied the widow of our leader of the ANC, Albert Luthuli, when he received a posthumous award from the organisation for African Unity.
I fear what will happen if we fail to extinguish this fire. There are consequences for our country and for our people in the diaspora. We need to stop this thing in its tracks before serious action is taken against us.
In 1976, hon Deputy Speaker, General Olusegun Obasanjo came to this country as one of the eminent group of the Common Wealth to actually see the situation in this country. He met with Madiba. I was surprised when he sent me a ticket to go to Nigeria on the
day Transkei got independence because he didn't want me to go to the celebration of independence.
Hon Deputy Speaker, this is not the first spate of attacks, but it must be the last. [Time expired.] [Applause.]