Naledi Pandor. Picture: VELI NHLAPO / SOWETAN
Naledi Pandor. Picture: VELI NHLAPO / SOWETAN

International relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor says the local media are deliberately pushing a narrative that paints the country as xenophobic.

The minister, who was briefing journalists in Pretoria on Monday ahead of next week's UN General Assembly in New York, said the government would clarify to the UN that the country was “not a xenophobic nation”.

Pandor has been asked by president Cyril Ramaphosa to head the SA delegation to the UN general assembly. The president, who usually heads such delegations, has opted to remain in SA to attend to pressing local issues such as the violent xenophobic attacks and gender-based violence.

According to Pandor, the “unfortunate and tragic events of the past two weeks” — which saw attacks on African foreign nationals and looting of their businesses — was a “complex issue” that needed to be looked at in context.

She called on the local media to help the government in pushing “a different message” about what was going on in the country.

“I think it is SA media that is depicting SA as xenophobic because SA media is very keen to keep this impression alive,” said Pandor.

 “I would urge the media of SA to help us and start sending a different message to the people of the world, as well as to our own people, to convey the message that we welcome all to our country, and that the events that occurred were events that none of us regard as to be tolerated and we believe were a shame to our nation,” Pandor said.

“I note the resistance of the media, even when respected actors in matters of human rights have said it is wrong to call SA xenophobic. The events that have happened are of concern, but maintaining this notion, which the media seems intent to do, is a problem for us.

Pandor said she a would give the same message she gave to the African diplomats last week, when she arrives in New York next week.

The minister said she did not expect any hostility towards her because of the attacks on foreign nationals, saying no diplomat “ran away from me” when she attended the memorial service for Zimbabwe's founding president Robert Mugabe at the weekend.

Pandor will be accompanied to the General Assembly by health minister Zweli Mkhize, environmental affairs, forestry and fisheries minister Barbara Creecy and minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu.

Other priorities the SA delegation will champion at the annual event include affirming the need for multilateralism, a push for the reform of the UN Security Council permanent membership and the need for the UN to promote an equitable, peaceful and fair world order.