President Cyril Ramaphosa says the violence and destruction that engulfed parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng two weeks ago caused much damage to property and livelihoods, but also had a huge impact on the cohesion of communities.
This was most evident in the tragic events that took place in and around Phoenix in eThekwini.
"During some of the worst unrest in our democracy, and in a climate already thick with suspicion and paranoia, people that had lived side-by-side in relative peace turned on each other," said the President in his weekly newsletter on Monday.
He said much still needs to be unearthed about the events that took place over the course of the last two weeks. The proliferation of fake news, doctored images and incorrect information has made it difficult to separate fact from fiction.
"But we do know from official reports and personal accounts that people were racially profiled at illegal roadblocks, some people were pulled out of cars and beaten, and some were humiliated and degraded. Several people were killed," President Ramaphosa said.
The President also spoke out against vigilantism, saying that it will not be tolerated.
Meanwhile, calm has been restored to the affected areas and law enforcement agencies are investigating all acts of criminality.
"A team of detectives has been assigned to deal with the murders and are working closely with local communities. There have been arrests and those responsible will face the full might of the law."
He had stern words for those who tried to exploit people's vulnerability and cause mayhem as well as those who want to present criminal acts in racial terms to serve their own purposes.
"They will not succeed. South Africa has a proud history of principled non-racialism and working class solidarity. African and Indian communities were united in the struggle against apartheid and, together with other communities, remain committed to a united and democratic society."
The legacy of apartheid planning and persistent inequality has frustrated government's efforts to build integrated communities. "Our cities, towns and rural areas are still all divided by both race and class. This discourages cooperation and understanding, and hampers the work we have undertaken to build a non-racial society," he said.
The correcting of spatial distortions must be part of government's work of building an inclusive economy and improving the living conditions of all South Africans.
"It is why we are working to build flourishing township and rural economies, and focusing on the growth of small businesses. It is why we are investing in infrastructure in these areas and working to improve the provision of services.
"We need to have honest conversations not only about our attitudes to one another, but also about the material conditions that divide us. For as long as the division of wealth and opportunity in South Africa is largely still determined by race and gender, we will not be able to build a truly united nation," the President said.