‘We must integrate African migrants into our communities,’ Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said during an awards ceremony in Johannesburg to honor African migrants, which coincided with Africa Day celebrations.Government officials in South Africa used the Africa Day celebrations on Monday to call for co-existence and unity amongst African migrants and their host communities, a month after a wave of anti-immigrant attacks in the country.
“We must integrate African migrants into our communities,” Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said during an awards ceremony in Johannesburg to honor African migrants, which coincided with Africa Day celebrations.
Gigaba said African migrants make a huge contribution to the South African economy.
“We hope that the positive stories of nominated migrants for the awards will change perspectives about migrants in this country,” he said.
Speaking at a separate event, President Jacob Zuma said he was proud as a South African of his African identity.
“We are proud to be part of a continent that is growing, that has a bright future,” Zuma said during the government’s first Africa Day celebrations in Pretoria.
“We urge South African institutions and companies to begin flying the African Union flag together with the South African flag,” he said.
Africa Day is commemorated every year on May 25 to mark the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Ethiopia, which is now known as the African Union (AU).
South Africa joined the OAU on May 23 1994, after it attained its liberation from the apartheid regime.
“Africa Day holds a special meaning to South Africa in particular and our continent in general,” Zuma said.
The South African leader said Africa Day was also about South Africa recalling the selfless solidarity and friendship that it received from the African continent during its struggle for liberation.
“We also at the same time celebrate the solidarity and friendship provided by South Africans in many townships and villages to African nationals who came to settle in our country in search of opportunities even at the height of apartheid colonialism.”
Zuma said South Africa has for decades been a home to many African nationals and that will not change.
“We are happy to be joined by nationals from these countries at this celebration,” he said.
“We became one people, and shall remain one people, living together in peace and friendship at all times,” Zuma added.
Last month, South Africa witnessed a wave of anti-immigrant attacks which begun in the coastal city of Durban and later spread to Johannesburg, the country’s largest city.
Seven people lost their lives in the violence and hundreds were displaced from their homes and businesses.
Hundreds of other African migrants left the country after their governments provided transport to repatriate them back home.
South Africans accused the African migrants of taking their jobs, crowding social services and committing crime.