South Africa vows crackdown on xenophobic attacks after five die

110 views
Zulu residents of the Jeppe Men Hostel scream waving batons in the Johannesburg CBD on Tuesday after South Africa's financial capital was hit by a new wave of anti-foreigner violence. -AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Five people have been killed in a surge of xenophobic violence in South Africa, police said on Tuesday, as President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed to clamp down and the African Union, Nigeria and Zambia condemned the attacks.

Hordes of people -- some armed with axes and machetes -- gathered in Johannesburg's central business district for a third day of unrest directed against foreigners, hours after mobs burned and looted shops in the township of Alexandra, prompting police to fire rubber bullets to disperse them.

Five deaths -- most of them South Africans -- have been reported, police said, adding that 189 people had been arrested.

In a video address broadcast on Twitter, Ramaphosa said attacks on businesses run by "foreign nationals is something totally unacceptable, something that we cannot allow to happen in South Africa."

"I want it to stop immediately," said Ramaphosa, adding that the violence had "no justification."

Sporadic violence against foreign-owned stores and enterprises has a long history in South Africa, where many locals blame immigrants for high unemployment.

The country is a major destination for economic migrants from neighboring Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Others come from much farther away, including South Asia and Nigeria, Africa's most populous country.

Gavin Booldchand, who lives in Coronationville, a low income suburb west of Johannesburg, said he witnessed one of the killings on Tuesday, which was blamed on a Pakistani store owner.

"The owner of the shop shot him straight into the face," Booldchand told AFP. "He didn't have to shoot the guy like that you know.

"People are taking our jobs and stuff (and) it is our country after all."

This week's assaults appear on a greater scale than in the past, although the full details remain unclear.

"They burned everything," Bangladeshi shop owner Kamrul Hasan, 27, told AFP in Alexandra, adding that his shop gets attacked every three to six months.

"All my money is gone. If the (South African) government pays for my plane ticket, I will go back to Bangladesh," he said.

The violence and looting of shops occurred in Johannesburg and surrounding areas.

Similar incidents occurred in the capital Pretoria on Monday, when local media reported shacks and shops burning in the Marabastad -- a central business area largely populated by economic migrants. -AFP


110 views