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Xenophobia: Ramaphosa apologises at Mugabe funeral

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa was jeered and whistled at on Saturday during his speech at Zimbabwe ex-leader Robert Mugabe’s funeral before he apologised for recent xenophobic attacks.

At least 12 people have been killed this month in a surge in violence and mob attacks against foreign-owned businesses in and around Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city.

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A wave of jeers, boos and whistles interrupted Ramaphosa at the Harare national stadium as he started his eulogy at the state funeral for Mugabe, who died in a Singapore hospital on September 6 aged 95.

“I stand before you as a fellow African to express my regret and apologise for what has happened in our country,” Ramaphosa said after one of the organisers tried to calm the crowd.

His comments were met with cheers and blasts of horns from the crowd.

Mugabe led Zimbabwe for 37 years, from independence until he was ousted by the army in November 2017.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa walked behind the casket carrying Mugabe’s body as it was wheeled into the center of Harare’s National Sports Stadium and placed on a podium decorated with flowers so that heads of state could say their farewells. Senior army generals and Mugabe’s wife and children followed, as a brass band played.

The 60,000 seater stadium was only half-filled.

In a tribute to his predecessor, Mnangagwa said Mugabe stood in defense of Africans. He urged the West to remove sanctions that were imposed during Mugabe’s rule.

“We who remain shall continue to hear his rich, brave, defiant and inspiring voice …encouraging and warning us to be vigilant and astute,” Mnangagwa said in a speech.

Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta called Mugabe an intellectual giant, “a visionary leader and a relentless champion of African dignity.”

Other heads of state who attended Saturday’s funeral included long-ruling leaders from Equatorial Guinea and Congo while China, Russia and Cuba, which supported Zimbabwe’s liberation movements that fought white minority rule, were represented by officials. (AFP, Reuters)

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