02/12/2016 08:02 SAST | Updated 02/12/2016 15:51 SAST

Mashaba Really Said Foreigners Deserve The Label 'Criminals'

Yes, really.

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Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba has branded illegal immigrants criminals and has vowed that his administration will do everything possible to remove them from the inner city. Mashaba on Thursday said South Africans had lost confidence in government because it has opened borders and allowed people to flock in.

"The inner city today is hijacked by criminal elements. For me first and foremost being a South African, I'm not prepared to sit back and watch my own country being taken by criminal elements," Mashaba said.

He vowed to fight tooth and nail to reclaim the inner city.

"Anyone who is in the city illegally must be prepared to face the law. They must know we are not going to be the government that tolerates criminality. If they think they have the resources to fight us, we are ready as the new government to fight so that our people can take ownership of the city," he added.

Mashaba said they wanted the inner city to be the a where South Africans can live and play. He said he is committed to the process and has already put together a team of human rights lawyers to work with him to ensure that criminals no longer flourish in the city.

"I'm declaring war on criminality in our city. I will use every available legal process to ensure we get rid of these criminal elements. I know it's not going to be an easy exercise and I know some people might think we are hard, heartless. No, we are doing this because we love our country and our people. We don't want to see our people living under these appalling conditions, being made to pay rentals to slumlords and criminality and we sit back and say they have the right," said Mashaba.

Asked why he referred to foreigners as criminals, Mashaba did not hold back and said they deserved the name tag and he wanted them to understand that. He said they were holding the country to ransom but he would not allow it to continue any further. He added that the failures of national government to deal with the problems would cost them dearly in the 2019 general elections.

"Unfortunately, short term we have a challenge but in the meantime, I have already started engaging embassies in our country for them to know that their residents in our city who are here criminally, really bear with us. We will engage national government to help us. I don't believe anyone can expect us to tolerate the situation of criminality. If we do, then we must accept the consequences of the decay we have witnessed. The embassies that I have already engaged with and shared my plans, everybody agrees," he said.

Watch: Here's What It's Like Being A Foreigner In South Africa