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Xenophobic Violence in South Africa; Airstrikes Help Repel ISIS from Ramadi; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired April 16, 2015 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FRED PLEITGEN, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: (INAUDIBLE).
PLEITGEN: -- of Ramadi, a life report from Baghdad.
PLEITGEN: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Fred Pleitgen, sitting in for Christiane tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Riot police in South Africa fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse a mob of anti-immigrant protesters in
Johannesburg today as the country battles a wave of xenophobic attacks.
At least five people, including a 14-year-old boy, have been killed in the last few days and thousands of others have had to flee their
homes taking shelter at makeshift camps and police stations in Durban.
And while President Jacob Zuma has urged calm, all this is worryingly reminiscent of anti-immigrant protests that happened in 2008,
which left over 60 people dead back then.
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PLEITGEN: All this in a nation that overcame the violence of apartheid and racial hatred only about 20 years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Aware of that legacy, many South Africans are rallying around one message today, to say no to xenophobia. But
many immigrants caught up in the violence say they don't need rallies; what they need is protection.
And joining me now from Cape Town is the man who is supposed to give them that protection, South Africa's minister of home affairs,
Malusi Gigaba. He, along with the ministers of police and state security, have been tasked with bringing the violence to an end. And
he's just returned from Durban; as we've seen, he's one of the flashpoints of the violence that's going on.
Minister Gigaba, thank you very much for joining the program tonight.
MALUSI GIGABA, SOUTH AFRICAN MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS: Good evening and it's our pleasure to be here.
PLEITGEN: Sir, again, thank you very much.
How were you going to bring the violence to an end and what is the latest?
Are things under control at this point?
GIGABA: I think the first thing that we need to mention is that South Africa welcomes immigrants, particularly from the African
continent and we appreciate the positive contribution they are making towards our economic and social (INAUDIBLE) to the African continent and
the world as a whole.
The South African government believes that it is absolutely no justification for the violence taking place, that no prevents or consent
(ph) justifies the brutality, taking of people and uprooting them so (INAUDIBLE). And the president has established an interministerial
team, which is reinforced by the security cluster of ministers, to bring the violence to an end, to protect those who are under attack and to
engage the communities from which they are being uprooted so that they can be reintegrated back into those communities.
We've had several meetings with the king of the Zulu people, His Majesty King Zwelithini. We've had meetings with the diplomatic corps,
particularly the African diplomatic corps. We've met with the immigrant communities themselves and we -- yesterday we spent a great deal of time
going to the flashpoints with different ministers in the (INAUDIBLE) in order to engage the communities there, (INAUDIBLE) behind the call for
peace, which was then demonstrated in the match that took place today.
Insofar as the police are consent (ph), they are doing everything in their power to bring to book all those who are perpetrators of this
violence and ensure that we send a very clear message through the specialized court which have been established that such activities will
not be tolerated.
PLEITGEN: Sir, one of the things that you said is that you were very willing to help people who wanted to go back to their home
Doesn't that send the opposite message?
Doesn't that send a message if you have a problem with this, you can go home, that South Africa does not welcome foreigners?
GIGABA: No, no, no. No, no. There are people who have requested (INAUDIBLE) repatriation. And we have said to them as well as their
embassies that this is not our immediate response to this situation. We would not want them to leave the country under these circumstances.
But if they insist on leaving, we are willing to assist them to facilitate their safe return home because we cannot keep them in the
country against their will when they feel unsafe. I know that a lot of them will return to South Africa when the situation normalizes and when
they feel that they will be safe.
It's quite clear that the South African government long after this violence has been brought to an end, will need to engage with the issue
of immigrants, particularly those from the African continent, their safety in the country, the safe (INAUDIBLE) we'll be in a position to
provide the lasting solution to this challenge.
PLEITGEN: -- one of the problems that politicians in the past have been playing on the animosity towards foreigners in South Africa?
One of the things, for instance, at the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation said is that people in positions of
leadership in South Africa have been fueling the flames for a very long time.
Isn't one of the big problems that politicians are using this as an issue, the animosity towards foreigners, that saying they take jobs
away, saying they're criminals, things like that?
GIGABA: No, no, I think that's an exaggeration. The political leadership in the country have not really been vociferous in fueling the
flames of anti-foreigner sentiment. I think that has come from other such towers (ph) of the leaders in the country.
And that's why as from last week, we were making a very categorical call on all leaders in South Africa, be they religious (INAUDIBLE) South
African political leadership has been very well coming to foreigners in South Africa.
As we speak, South Africa (INAUDIBLE) goodwill towards the African continent and demifriends (ph). They have lived very peacefully among
South African because we have places which do not have a place of contentment (ph).
And so immigrant have been very welcome in South Africa for quite a long time.
PLEITGEN: Mr. Gigaba, thank you very much for joining the program and we do hope the situation will be (INAUDIBLE).
With that, let's get straight to a man who's known for straight talk, popular South African radio host, political commentator Eusebius
McKaiser, who now joins me from Johannesburg.
And Eusebius, first of all, I want you to just react to what the minister said.
EUSEBIUS MCKAISER, RADIO HOST: The minister's spot on, Fred, that indeed South African politicians have not been stoking the xenophobic
attitudes and flames that we are seeing. But where he's giving himself too much credit and his colleagues across political parties, may I add,
is that they've been very present and welcoming foreign nationals into the country.
So in a sense, they're not guilty of what you had put to him; but they are guilty of something possibly worse, which is inaction and a
lack of leadership present on the ground, continuously since 2008. That has been absent.
And perhaps most woeful of all, Fred, the litany of different factors that explain xenophobia have never been adequately dealt with by
PLEITGEN: What are the factors? What factors are you talking about?
Because there's always two sides to this. On the one hand, there's always a law enforcement aspect to all this; but on the other hand,
there are underlying issues within South African society that lead to outbreaks of violence like this one.
MCKAISER: Oh, absolutely. The factors, in a sense, are not rocket science. You hardly need to be someone holding a Ph.D. in violence to
get the grammar of violence which is like an artificial language spoken by all South Africans. So here's a number of the factors, Fred.
Economic inequality in South Africa: we are possibly the most unequal nation on Earth; unemployment levels, unofficially, around 40
percent; and top of that, you have low economic growth so the prospects for dealing with poverty and unemployment are quite bleak, to be honest.
That's on the economic side.
But I'm afraid it runs much deeper than that. In fact, it precedes the AMC coming into power in 1994. South Africans also have memory of
what it's like to be victims at the hand of a police state called the apartheid state.
And in a sense, mythically (ph) if you will, we have violence running through our memes that we hand down and now while we are
beginning to behave in a really bizarre and callous manner like the very police state from which we had fled and fought against for so long.
So psychological factors, psychosocial factors and economic factors are the toxic combination that explains what is going on here in South
Africa right now.
PLEITGEN: The minister, in an interview before, had said that he doesn't believe that xenophobia is to blame for the outbreak of violence
now. He believes that it's simply criminal factors.
What do you think he means by that?
And do you think he's right?
MCKAISER: I do not think that he's right and I think what he means by that is that perhaps South Africans, both the state and not just
private citizens, because we're indicted, too, are less blameworthy than we actually are. Because here's the thing, Fred. As soon as you use
the word "xenophobia," it really has incredible moral weight.
And let's also not forget that being signatories to important international conventions that require us to do something in the case
where humanitarian law is not being respected between citizens, we have legal duties in terms of international law.
We also have moral duties. I think the South African state is avoiding consistent use of the term "xenophobia" because it's trying to
evade the moral stain and the legal duties that the term will imply.
Of course it is criminal behavior. Of course it's also partly hatred of fellow Africans. But first and foremost it's xenophobia and
it won't help us to call a spade a garden implement. We've got to characterize this properly so the response can track what is really
PLEITGEN: Is there, though, widespread hatred of other Africans in South Africa? Is there a feeling among many people that they're to
blame for crime -- immigrants -- that they take jobs away?
You know, there's been issues between shopowners.
Is there that underlying feeling in some places in South Africa?
MCKAISER: Look, I think that sentiment is present in many communities. And there's a bizarre way that it's playing out,
especially amongst the chattering classes on social media and even among social justice activists. There's this deep yearning. And I'm sure
many of my country men will not be pleased with me saying this, but it's a deep yearning amongst the chattering classes, some intellectuals and
activists to try and explain the behavior. And of course the behavior is rooted in the sentiment that you're identifying, the sense that
foreigners are coming, they're taking our jobs, they're taking opportunities for entrepreneurship.
But the reality is that although poverty is an injustice and here in South Africa we have economic injustice and it's a bit part of the
frustration and the anger, in the first instance there is a security crisis when it comes to the safety of foreign nationals right now.
And it's not the time to prioritize deep, longwinded academic analyses about the causes. In the first instance, we all should
collectively condemn this behavior because, as bad as poverty is, the reality is that the poor have agency and also ought to be held
And this attempt to try and explain and rationalize the behavior that is unequivocally morally unacceptable is not appropriate on the
part of citizens, middle class allies of the poor and most definitely not acceptable on the part of political leaders.
PLEITGEN: Really quick, how concerned are you that this could spread, that this could get worse?
MCKAISER: I think that is a crisis mode that the government much imagine itself to be in. And set aside for the next couple of days and
weeks examining the long-term causes of this crisis and get on top of the security measures, Fred.
If they do that, then we can contain it and have the conversation we always avoided, ranging from the economic self-examination to the
more psychosocial questions, such as have we become the very perpetrators who used to do this to ourselves?
PLEITGEN: Very clear words there from Eusebius McKaiser, thank you very much, sir, for joining the program.
And the horrors of the past are echoing in today's South Africa as we've seen. But as we've also seen, there is some hope that there might
be a strong response against the violence.
After a break, hope is also in dire need in Iraq as ISIS marches on the crucial city of Ramadi. I'll speak live to our own Arwa Damon on
the ground in Baghdad.
PLEITGEN: And welcome back to the program. Once again, I'm Fred Pleitgen, sitting in for Christiane today.
And we go to Iraq now and let's be honest, we all thought the battle against ISIS was going in the right direction. The Iraqi
security forces liberated Tikrit and U.S. airstrikes are still pounding the militants in the places they hold.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Anbar province, Iraq's government said, would be next. But now it seems the opposite is the case. Ramadi, the
capital of that province is in danger of falling to ISIS as thousands of people are fleeing for their lives.
It's a stunning display of resilience by the Islamic State, which is clearly still capable of launching large-scale offensives. But also
this also confirms the utter weakness of Iraq's military -- not enough manpower, willpower or weapons.
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was just asked President Obama face-to-face for more help. We go now to our own Arwa Damon,
who's in Baghdad, and she's been following the latest. She's been close to Ramadi.
And first of all, Arwa, tell us what's going on on the ground, how big is the danger to Ramadi at this point in time?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to officials that we've been speaking to throughout the day, they still feel that without
that much needed additional assistance, especially boots on the ground and more airstrikes, Ramadi very well could fall. They quite simply are
outmanned and outgunned at this stage.
Over the last 24 hours we saw ISIS not only entering and taking over the eastern part of the city but making steady advances towards the
center, towards the government complex, a very key installation there. And Iraqi security forces were able to repel the ISIS assault on the
complex. But they could only hold out for so long. And then in the last few hours we did hear reports that airstrikes were finally to take
place, targeting some ISIS positions inside the city, at least stopping their advance towards the government complex and also targeting their
key vital supply lines on the outskirts.
But again, without those additional troops on the ground, the force that remains there is going to struggle to hold this territory -- Fred.
PLEITGEN: And you wonder where all of this comes from, because the latest that we've heard is that ISIS had lost 20-30 percent of the
territory hold and now all of a sudden they're standing in Ramadi.
Why is this help coming so late?
DAMON: Well, that's a great question and that's one that we have also been trying to get the answers to, as have the officials and forces
that are still trying to hold out and fight in Ramadi. Even before this most recent ISIS push into the city began, officials have been pleading
for backup, for more troops from Baghdad.
And in fact, last week, Baghdad did say that it had sent an additional three brigades to Ramadi over the last 24 hours. We've been
hearing the question of where are these forces? Nobody really knows. They most certainly are not inside the city itself.
The other big question has been why was ISIS able to advance so quickly and take over so much territory? We were told by an official
that the force that advanced into Ramadi from the east was made up of 200-300 fighters.
We did manage to get a hold of the head of the ministry of defense's media office, who said the Iraqi forces on the eastern front
made a decision to withdraw as ISIS was advancing because of the density of the civilian population there. And they did not want to engage in
street-to-street gun battles and risk collateral damage. But allowing the civilian population to leave, they also opened up the route for ISIS
to move in. And then again there's the issue of these airstrikes. Why did they come so late in the game, especially since for weeks now,
officials have been asking for them, not just in Ramadi, but in other key strategic areas throughout Anbar province. And these are questions
that we have been trying to get answers from from the Iraqi government. There are questions that the population of Anbar province is asking as
well because they do feel as if the Iraqi government at this stage has abandoned them in this very key battle.
PLEITGEN: That's -- that was going to be my next question, because one of the things that happened the last time around, when ISIS came
rolling into that part of Iraq was that the Iraqi security forces collapsed very quickly, also because they didn't trust their political
and military leadership.
Do they trust them now?
DAMON: Not necessarily. There are some that are willing to give the new-ish Iraqi government a chance. There are some that would still
rather fight ISIS than join them or live underneath them. But that's a very key point, moving forward. This current predominantly Shia
government, it needs to establish that trust with the population. This is something the government is very well aware of. The minister of
defense told us a few weeks ago that they fully realized and appreciated the fact that in moving into these areas, these predominantly Sunni
areas, they had to convince the population that the Iraqi security forces were on their side. They had to effectively turn a hostile
population into being a friendly one. But that is a very difficult task, especially given the mistrust that exists. And let's just look at
al-Anbar as the example. Back in 2006, when ISIS was back then Al Qaeda in Iraq, you had the Sunni awakening, when the Sunnis, some of them,
yes, former insurgents, began to turn on what was then Al Qaeda in Iraq and were instrumental in America's battle against Al Qaeda in Iraq and
in helping turn the tide of the insurgency here.
These same fighters afterwards felt abandoned. These are the very same fighters who are going to have to be convinced to give the Iraqi
government a second chance that they will stand up against ISIS. A lot of the tribes, the Sunni tribes in Anbar, Fred, have been asking for
weapons from the Iraqi government. They do want to fight ISIS. But that has not really taken place so far. We did see the prime minister
handing out around 1,000 AKs to some tribal leaders last week. But that was pretty symbolic.
So if the Iraqi government really wants to prove to the population of Anbar and to the Sunni population elsewhere, it needs to focus on
helping the out in this battle and not just saying they're going to be providing additional forces but actually providing those forces. They
need to provide the weapons to the Sunni tribes. They need to rebuild those bridges of trust. Otherwise, it is going to be an even more
devastating and difficult future for this country than what we have already seen.
PLEITGEN: Arwa Damon, thank you very much. Great reporting as usual.
And Arwa's obviously absolutely right; the optimism is something that shouldn't come too soon, especially when we're talking about
rooting out ISIS out of Iraq.
The questions over ISIS also spread to Russia today, as President Vladimir Putin faced his own public in his annual public phone-in.
Millions watched Putin plow through questions in a marathon session, where he tried to (INAUDIBLE) economy and were questions on the murder
of Boris Nemtsov as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): The murder of raises such a concern we were -- we have friendly relations.
It was tragic and shameful.
The question about whether we find the people who were ordered to carry out (INAUDIBLE), no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: (INAUDIBLE). Well, while Putin was answering calls, it seems Pope Francis (INAUDIBLE) imagine a world where the holy call goes
PLEITGEN: (INAUDIBLE) and you don't (INAUDIBLE) in June. The pope, ever the problem solver (INAUDIBLE) because of a bad signal.
Luckily, the pope first left a voice message (INAUDIBLE).
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: (INAUDIBLE) image as a great communicator. (INAUDIBLE). The Vatican has not yet confirmed Francis' choice (INAUDIBLE).