It was all jeers for President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa yesterday in Harare, Zimbabwe, when he joined other African leaders to pay tribute to Zimbabwe’s founding president, Robert Mugabe.
The former Zimbabwean President had died on September 6, 2019 at Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore.
The crowd booed him as he was introduced by the master of ceremony at the funeral held at the National Sports Stadium.
The boos were in reaction to recent xenophobic attacks by South Africans on fellow Africans living in their country, including Nigerians and Zimbabweans.
The MC pleaded with the stadium crowd to let Ramaphosa speak.
He apologized for the attacks in which 12 people were officially confirmed dead and many others maimed or displaced.
More than 10 African leaders and several former presidents attended the service and viewing of the body of Mugabe, who died penultimate week in Singapore aged 95.
Nigeria was represented at the event by Vice President Yemi Oshinbajo.
Ramaphosa said: “I like to say to the people of Zimbabwe that in the last two weeks, we as South Africans have been going through challenging period. We have had acts of violence erupting in some parts of our country and some of which was directed at our brothers in other African countries.
“This has led to the deaths of some people. Some of whom are nationals of other countries and majority are from South Africa. I stand before you as a fellow African to express my regrets and to apologize for what has happened in our country.
“What has happened in South Africa goes against the principles of the unity of the African people that President Mugabe, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Thambo and leaders of our continent stood for.
“I stand before you, fellow Zimbabweans, fellow Africans to say that we are working very hard to encourage all our people in South Africa to embrace people from all other African countries.
“Your Excellencies, I will like to thank you for the support that you have offered us during this difficult time. I would like to say this now that South Africans are not xenophobic and are not against nationals from other African countries.
“We welcome people from other African countries and we are going to work very hard that will encourage and promote social cohesion of all the people of South Africa working side by side with people from other part of our continent. This we shall do, because we want to embrace the spirit of unity that President Mugabe worked for throughout his life.”