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Johannesburg braced for more anti-immigrant violence

By Khadija Patel

Scenes of looted stores are greeting Johannesburg residents in South Africa as police assist foreign nationals to safety in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, following a second day of violence.

Overnight, looting and road blockages by anti-immigrant protesters were reported in Alexandra, Malvern, Thokoza and Cleveland on Saturday.

Colonel Dlamini, Gauteng police spokesperson, told Al Jazeera: “We believe these are pure criminal acts. People are taking advantage of the situation and then they are robbing small businesses.”

Late on Friday a group of protesters barricaded portions of the M2 highway with rocks and refuse, and police were forced to fire rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.

“There were problems in Cleveland last night where the residents from the informal settlement attacked foreign nationals but police have attended to the situation,” Dlamini said.

Dlamini said more than 30 people were arrested on Friday night in the Cleveland and Thokoza policing area, while another five were arrested in Alexandra.

In the port city of Durban, meanwhile, no new incidents of violence against foreigners have been reported.

Police, however, established overnight that a sixth person had been confirmed dead in the violence that has plagued the city for over two weeks.

According to investigations by Durban police, the body of a 58-year-old man found dumped in Verulam, north of Durban, on Wednesday, has been revealed to be a foreign national who was attacked by a mob at his home in the area.

Thousands displaced

The UN Refugee Agency estimates that a total of 5,000 people have been displaced in the current wave of violence.

Makeshift shelters for displaced foreigners has been set up around Durban, from which many foreigners are now preparing to leave South Africa.

According to UNHCR, some 1,400 people, mostly single men, with few families, are being accommodated in Chatsoworth, while, 300 others are sheltered in Isipingo, and another 450 in Greenwood Park.

The UN Refugee Agency says, some 1,500 displaced people were moved to a new and larger site in Phoenix on Thursday.

Daniel Dunia, a Congolese national who serves as a spokesperson for the displaced foreign nationals in Isipingo, says foreigners in Durban still feel unsafe, and the numbers of the displaced continue to swell.

“Many foreigners around Durban have been hiding in houses, hoping that the situation will improve but they have given up hope, and they are coming to the camp hoping that they can find somewhere safe or go back to their countries,” Dunia said.

Like many foreign nationals in South Africa, Dunia says he cannot return home.

Vox Pops: South Africans march against attacks on foreigners

“For me personally I would prefer to go back to my country, but there is a war happening in the DRC, I can’t go back there,” he said.

The South African government has reiterated its condemnation of the attacks on foreign nationals.

Following a cabinet meeting on Friday morning, Jeff Radebe, a minister in the presidency said, “South Africa is not a violent country and therefore a few individuals cannot be allowed to hold the whole country at ransom.”

The South African government has come under pressure from other African states to stop the violence against immigrants in the country.

In a statement issued in Accra by Ghanian President John Dramani Mahama, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned “the barbaric, criminal and xenophobic murder of innocent African foreigners in South Africa”.

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa’s international relations and co-operation minister, held a meeting with the heads of missions of African states to address their concerns related to the anti-immigrant violence on violence on Friday.

“It is with a deep sense of pain and regret that we as the South African government humbled ourselves before the African diplomatic community in our meeting with them today; and we expressed, through them, our heartfelt apologies to the African continent and people for the actions of those of our citizens who have behaved in a shameful manner,” Nkoana-Mashabane said following the meeting in Pretoria.

Reprisals against South Africans in neighbouring countries have however already affected South African businesses.

South African energy giant Sasol was forced to repatriate 340 South African staff members from its Mozambican operations on Friday, over fears for their safety.

Back in Johannesburg police are preparing to increase their deployments to troubled areas on Saturday night.

“At this stage, everything is calm, but we anticipate more attacks tonight,” Dlamini, the Gauteng police spokesperson, said.

Click on the image below to learn more about xenophobia in South Africa

Source:: Al Jazeera

The post Johannesburg braced for more anti-immigrant violence appeared first on African Media Agency.

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