Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on Thursday warned against escalation of tensions between foreign nationals and South African citizens, saying police had been deployed in areas where violence had taken place.
Speaking ahead of a planned march against foreigners on Friday by The Mamelodi Residents Trust, Gigaba said: "There will be no progressive and sustainable victory in xenophobic violence. Opportunistic individuals who partake in it erode the human face we have struggled very hard to acquire. While a more measured approach may not make me the most popular politician, I believe it is the right thing to do".
He said he met The Mamelodi Residents Trust last week on Friday to listen to their concerns and also to discourage any violence against foreign nationals.
"This is to a large measure a complex and delicate matter. Reckless abandonment of the core values of Ubuntu will only lead us into a clumsy and irresponsible reaction," said Gigaba.
"We must respond in a humane and lawful manner, taking into cognizance the genuine frustrations of communities, while remaining mindful of tempers likely to spark violence and other acts of criminality."
He said in other parts of the world immigration has taken a centre stage in the life of the nation.
On the global stage, immigration has proven to be an emotive and contentious issue.
"It has been used to divide global citizens, with the view that it poses a serious threat and socio-economic challenges for receiving countries," said the home affairs minister.
"South Africa is not unique in this regard. Many countries are wrestling with anti-immigrant sentiments. Its manifestations may be seen in some of the issues affecting communities, and are discernible also in the issues exploited to perpetrate criminal activities."
Two weeks ago residents of Rosettenville set alight houses they suspected were owned by foreign nationals whom they accused of operating brothels and drug dens.
A week later similar violence occurred in Pretoria north.
Shops owned by foreign nationals were reportedly looted in Mamelodi and Atteridgeville.
"Law and order are therefore critical factors when we talk about migration. We must address matters raised by communities, in a legal framework, while ensuring, at all times, they also raise matters within the confines of the law," said Gigaba, who was addressing a media briefing in Cape Town.
"Our democracy enshrines our hard-earned human rights. We are first and foremost humans. This reality cannot be diluted by your country of origin or what documents you hold, or lack thereof," said the home affairs minister.
"Humanity, within the context of our Constitution, is not only a cultural prescription of Ubuntu, it is also about legal compliance, and respect for rights of all persons."
Gigaba said there were also communities agitating against foreign nationals.
"In this regard, a protest march is planned for the 24th of February 2017, in the Pretoria CBD by the Mamelodi Concerned Residents. Disgruntlement raised by communities is around competition for jobs, access to economic opportunities and alleged criminal activities involving foreign nationals; these include drug peddling and prostitution," said Gigaba.
The home affairs minister said he met with protest organisers and he appealed to them to express themselves responsibly.
"We have directed all security officials to be visible in communities and to objectively deal with criminality, regardless of whether it is committed by a South African or a foreign national."
"We led a government delegation, with the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, to Rosettenville on Monday 13 February, to make sure that law enforcement agencies are responding to issues raised by communities, and to encourage dialogue between communities and the authorities. Arrests have been made, among others, for alleged drug peddling and acts of public violence."
The home affairs minister called for visible and effective policing, saying failure to respond would be irresponsible in the extreme, as it would serve further to fuel tensions among communities.
"This message to act responsibly, had been conveyed also to businesses in the country, starting with those in the hospitality sector, pointing to the folly and dangers of failing to comply with the laws of the Republic. Business is a critical partner in managing anti-immigrant sentiments and more will be expected of them."
He said in many cases business incentivises irregular migration.
"Those contributing to questionable labour practices must be held to account," said Gigaba.
"It is far easier and convenient for some to target desperate and vulnerable migrants than the unscrupulous employers who deliberately fuel tensions in the labour market. It is easier and convenient to target dwellers of rundown buildings than irresponsible buildings’ owners."
"We have a commitment of the hospitality sector on the need to comply with SA’s labour and immigration laws, especially the requirement to employ a minimum 60% of local people".
Nigeria and Pakistan have already registered their concerns about attacks on foreign nationals living in South Africa.
The SA Human Rights Commission has also requested a report of how the SA government intends to deal with the threat of xenophobic violence, especially regarding the march on Friday.
Pakistan said it would provide security for its nationals that want to take part in an alternative anti-xenophobia march also planned for Friday in the capital city, Pretoria.
Gigaba also called for calm saying: "I wish to appeal to all South Africans to desist from rhetoric or actions that are xenophobic. I also want to commend the many responsible South Africans who have been a living testament to Ubuntu and tolerance".