17/02/2017 14:13 SAST | Updated 17/02/2017 15:07 SAST

Watch What You Say, Minister Tells Leaders

Leaders should choose words about foreigners carefully, says Home Affairs Minister Gigaba. Avoid xenophobia.

Gallo Images/ Daily Sun / Jabu Kumalo
Immigrants, asylum seekers and supporting organisations protested in Johannesburg in December 2016, when the city's mayor Herman Mashaba faced substantial criticism after reportedly making xenophobic comments.

Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba has issued a stern warning to leaders in South Africa to choose their words carefully when talking about foreigners in the country.

Gigaba was speaking at the Tshwane Events Centre following the launch of the Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Centre in Pretoria on Friday.

The centre was formerly known as the Marabastad Refugee Reception Centre. President Jacob Zuma unveiled the revamped centre on Friday morning.

"The people you are talking about are human beings, whether they are in the country with or without papers. No leader in this country should incite vigilantism," Gigaba said.

He said the majority of foreigners in the country have no criminal intentions. "We wish to see a country [in which] those who commit crime and corruption [are not] profiled by nationality."

He said the launch of the centre will serve as a model for the department. "We are also launching a centre that has been renamed after an icon for human rights in our country."

Before the revamp, the centre was poorly managed and did not have enough staff. Its IT system was slow and it had an inadequate filing system. There were long queues, overcrowding and allegations of corruption and criminal syndicates.

Some of the improvements include new signage, counters, and lighting. A new security system and electrical fencing have been installed while an automated booking system, paperless processes, off-site interpretation services and an improved registry have been put in place.