The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in South Africa says his country is the most unequal country in the world and this causes problems as the poor fight for survival.

And DIRCO says apartheid dehumanized South Africans so they fight with everyone.

Meanwhile, DIRCO says President Cyril Ramphosa’s government will endeavor to promote economic development, trade and investment within the context of agenda 2063 as the country takes over the AU Chairmanship next year.

Speaking to News Diggers on the sidelines of a media engagement tour of African journalists organized by that country’s government communications department last week, DIRCO partnerships director Ghulam Hoosein Asmal said poor South Africans were angry about foreigners who were taking up certain jobs which they were also fighting for.

“The problems that we are having are not because there are foreigners in our country, but [it’s that] poor people are fighting for the crumbs. So the questions of whether we have Zambians, Ghanians [or whoever] living in South Africa doesn’t really matter because a Ghanian Doctor that comes to South Africa, he lives in a suburb, he works in a nice office and his colleagues, he is not competing with anybody. But a Somali who opens a tuck-shop is competing with a South African. So that’s the problem,” Asmal said, when asked to comment on attacks on foreign nationals in that country.

“South Africa is the most unequal country in the world, we’ve got the very rich and the very very poor, and that is the problem. The problem is among the very poor, because poor people are fighting for survival amongst themselves.”

And when asked whether or not the attacks against foreign nationals had affected South Africa’s international relations in any way, Asmal said apartheid dehumanized South Africans.

“I think the leaders understand this better. But the other problem we have [is we are asking], why are people leaving Somalia to come here? You have caused the problem in your country, nobody likes to leave their own country and if you had the opportunity in your own country, you would not come here in the first place. So we are also making some steps to help improve the situations in your various countries so that people are not forced to come here. But then you know the apartheid system really dehumanized us, they didn’t give education and when you are dehumanized for a long time, you fight with everybody,” he said.

“So it is not the political problem, it is a problem of opportunity where the poor are fighting amongst themselves. Just look at where these problems were happening, it is where the poor people come from. If you speak to a Ghanian Doctor or a Nigerian doctor, unfortunately, he also lives in a different world because he doesn’t have a problem, nobody wants to take his job and nobody is fighting with him. But when you look at a poor commoner or a guy who is selling things in a tuck-shop, he has a problem. So really this is not a problem of politics, it is a problem of poverty. And why it’s happening now and not before is because our economy has really gone down. South Africa is very linked with the global economy. So when internationally things are bad, it always hits us. So our economy has gone down and prices of goods have also gone up, we’ve had droughts and mines are closing down. So our economy has suffered really badly and that’s why all this happening.”

Meanwhile, Asmal explained what his country intended to do whilst at the helm of the AU.

“Previously, we have had inequalities between nations. We had rich nations, poor nations and developing nations. But now increasingly, we are seeing inequalities within nations and that poses a great threat to development. But despite all these challenges, Africa has quite a few positive developments to show for and the most important ones that we think should take a lot o importance is the advances we are making in the integration process on the continent. Europe is struggling with the question of Brexit in the fear of disintegration of the European Union. We have made quite a few strides in the integration programme of the continent and the most important step in that direction has been the African Free Trade Area agreement, which creates the largest common market in the world. We believe that the free trade agreement will reignite industralisation and will also integrate Africa back into the global chain. So, President [Cyril] Ramaphosa will be working very closely to progress the free trade agreement,” said Asmal.

“The chairmanship of the AU is only year; there isn’t much that can be achieved within one year. But we have set out three focus areas to help us; the first one is promoting economic development, trade and investment and within this context, we will be supporting integration, economic development, and trade investment in the continent within the context of agenda 2063. We have a lot of problems in Africa; therefore, we will also be concentrating on enhancing peace and security because we cannot have prosperity without peace. Most of the conflicts in the region are primarily motivated by economic disparities and so we need to develop economically as well as to sustain the peace.”