Outspoken South African President Jacob Zuma denounced accusations of xenophobia following an anti-immigrant march in Pretoria Friday, Feb. 24.
Zuma spoke to media about the rising tensions between immigrants and native South Africans, who blame the recent spike in crime on the current surge of immigrants in the nation. Despite claims of xenophobia, Zuma reassured the press that South Africa has no issue with foreigners.
“The numbers in South Africa are far more than the numbers Europe is fighting about. You can’t say that Europe has xenophobia,” Zuma says. “That word has never been used. In Europe, they don’t want refugees. That’s a big matter. Nobody says that’s xenophobic.”
Since the violent clash, an estimated 137 people have been arrested in anti-xenophobia operations in the past 24 hours, according to Eyewitness News. During his presser, Zuma said that tensions mainly arise when people take matters into their own hands.
“In the majority of cases, only when there are such incidents, where people take the law into their own hands and generally people from the outside don’t have places to stay etc. Also, the kind of employment they have,” he says.
Immigrants have always been in South Africa, Zuma said, referencing the number of immigrants living in the nation during apartheid.
“There has never been an issue,” he says. “Why is it an issue today?”