Guterres’ message was conveyed by his spokesman, Mr Stéphane Dujarric, at a news briefing at the UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday.
He was responding to a News Agency of Nigeria’s (NAN) question that sought the Secretary General’s reaction to the situation.
“We strongly condemn the acts of violence that have been reported in different provinces in South Africa, including attacks against foreigners and the destruction of their property.
“The Secretary General has also very much noted President Cyril Ramaphosa’s unequivocal condemnation of that violence.
“He has also noted Ramaphosa’s call for strengthening accountability in line with democratic values enshrined in South Africa’s constitution.
“The Secretary General urges all political leaders to clearly and openly reject the use of violence,” he said.
The NAN’s question had particularly sought his comments on the refusal of the South African government to recognise the attacks as xenophobic, blaming criminality instead.
The government’s attitude, in addition to a “deliberate” failure by security agencies to prevent the attacks, is fueling allegations of subtle official backing of the perpetrators.
But the UN Chief’s spokesman also avoided the xenophobia tag, choosing rather to describe the attacks as “acts of violence”.
The last few days have seen a resurgence of xenophobic violence by South African mobs against foreign nationals, their property and businesses in parts of the country.
Many Nigerians and their assets have been targeted, triggering retaliatory attacks against South Africa-linked businesses in parts of Lagos, Ibadan, Uyo and Abuja.
A diplomatic row is imminent between both countries with the Nigerian government announcing on Wednesday that it had drawn ‘a red line’ with South Africa over the xenophobic attacks.
Making the announcement, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, told State House corespondents that the Federal Government was considering recalling its High Commissioner to South Africa for consultations.
Onyeama said a final decision would be taken after the Special Envoy sent to South Africa returned and presented his report.