South African president cancels state visit to Indonesia due to unrest

President Jacob Zuma.

South African President Jacob Zuma announced on Saturday that he had cancelled his state visit to Indonesia, where he had been scheduled to hold bilateral talks with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and attend the Asian-African Commemoration Conference (AACC).

The cancelation was made amid ongoing xenophobic violence that has continued to spread across South Africa's financial centre, Johannesburg.

"President Zuma has cancelled his visit to attend to matters at home relating to the attacks on foreign nationals," a statement released by South Africa's presidential office read.

Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa would replace the president in Indonesia, it added.

Zuma was due to arrive in Jakarta on Sunday afternoon and give a lecture themed "South Africa-Indonesia Relations: Lessons from the 1955 Bandung Conference" at the University of Indonesia in Depok, West Java, on Monday.

It is not yet known whether Ramaphosa will also replace Zuma in the lecture, and if the vice president will be received in a state ceremony by President Jokowi.

Zuma was initially set to be the only state leader to be received in a state ceremony at the State Palace on Tuesday.

The Indonesian Embassy in Pretoria has confirmed that no Indonesian citizens were hurt during a recent series of xenophobic attacks in two of South Africa's biggest cities, Johannesburg and Durban, which reportedly resulted in the deaths of at least six people.

"We have stepped up efforts to keep all Indonesians in South Africa, particularly in Johannesburg and Durban, well informed about the violence. We have also distributed circulars, including via social media. So far all Indonesians are safe," the embassy's first secretary on information, social and culture, Gunarmand Nainggolan, told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

The circular advises Indonesians to remain alert and avoid places prone to criminal acts. "So far the violent incidents have taken place in Durban and Johannesburg," he said.

There are at least 400 Indonesians currently residing in South Africa, the most-developed nation in the continent.

About 50 and 20 Indonesians are estimated to reside in Johannesburg and Durban, respectively, according to Gunarmand.

"But there are many Indonesian sailors who often come and go in Durban, which is a port city," he said.

The UN on Friday expressed concern over the latest round of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, saying the violence had displaced 5,000 people.

"In South Africa, xenophobic attacks over the last three weeks have [...] displaced over 5,000 foreign nationals, including refugees and asylum seekers," the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said, as reported by the AFP.

South Africa was a major destination for asylum seekers and refugees, and the country currently housed more than 300,000 asylum seekers, according to projections by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said UNHCR spokeswoman Tina Ghelli.

According to Gunarmand, most of the attacks were carried out by black South Africans and targeted black people from other countries.

"The trigger is economic inequality. Black-raced immigrants usually get businesses more successfully," he said.

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