President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for an end to campaigns against foreigners, saying these create social tensions and are against the law.
He also criticised employers who employ undocumented migrants and they were also breaking the law.
Ramaphosa was addressing the government’s Human Rights Day rally in Koster in the North West on Monday.
“Those who are setting up organisations such as Dudula, we say that is contravening the law.
“We cannot allow a situation where people embark on vigilantism to deal with a problem, a social problem.
“Let us work together; it is sensitive because this thing can soon turn into xenophobia and you know how the continent can turn its back on us.
“We rely on this continent of 1.3-billion people for our business, , imports and livelihoods and therefore, as we deal with the problem, let us be wise, let us be not violent.”
South Africans should not to allow themselves to be at war with those who come from other countries because “that is un-South African”.
“We have always had people from other countries. The mining industry, as we know it, was developed and built not only by South Africans but also by workers from other countries such as Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Angola, Zambia and eSwatini. They all participated.”
SA’s high unemployment rate was no excuse for citizens to wage war against people from other countries, because “once we do that we promote this spirit of xenophobia, that now we hate them and now they must go”.
Government will engage employers about employing undocumented foreigners.
“Yes, we want people to be properly documented in our country, we want employers to be careful and hire people who are properly documented.
“Let us make sure that we remember we are a country of diverse people and hence the appeal we make to employers, do not employ undocumented workers, because when you do you create tension among the people of our country.”
This was specifically directed at employers in the hospitality, agriculture, transport and other labour intensive sectors.
“When employers knowingly hire undocumented foreign workers they are breaking the law. When they do that they are also contributing to social tensions between our citizens and foreign nationals who are living here or have taken refuge here,” said Ramaphosa.
Operation Dudula is a campaign that began in Soweto last year but has since spread to other parts of Johannesburg aimed as “rooting out illegal and undocumented foreign nationals, particularly those setting up shops and engaging in criminal activities”.
This has led to tensions and sometimes violent clashes in affected areas.