South African President Jacob Zuma has described the outbreak of violence during Friday's anti-immigrant march in Pretoria as complex, saying South Africans and foreign nationals need to be understanding of one another.

President Jacob Zuma was speaking on the sidelines at the launch of Operation Phakisa in Pretoria.

He says South Africa has a leading economy on the continent and that’s why many people migrate here.

The president says the outbreak of violence in Pretoria is not xenophobic but is really aimed at crime.

He also urged political leaders visiting the affected areas not to say the wrong things.

“Let us help to cool down the situation; make people understand, talk to the police and talk to the foreigners. That is what they should do rather than making statements that actually exacerbate the feelings of the people.”

Zuma says whether South Africans are xenophobic or not is up for debate but that he doubts South Africans are xenophobic.

“I think we love using phrases in South Africa that at the time cause unnecessary perceptions about us. I think we are not [xenophobic], it’s not the first time we’re with the foreigners here.”

He says government does know many foreign nationals who come here aren’t refugees but are looking for jobs and to make a better living.

At least twice during the day police used stun grenades, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse citizens and non-nationals.

At least 137 people have been arrested in anti-xenophobia operations within the last 24 hours.


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