South Africa tries to Curb Xenophobic Hysteria
May 20, 2008, 7:16 am
Filed under: Africa, Poverty, Racism, South Africa | Tags: , , ,

BuaNews reports on the xenophobic violence plaguing some of South Africa’s largest cities. Thousands of foreigners, mostly from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, have fled into refugee shelters since the violence began on May 11 in Alexandra township. The foreigners are expectantly being accused of stealing jobs and perpetuating the general chaos that plagues most of the townships. The government is scrambling to curb the rise of violent attacks and President Thabo Mbeki has made a public plea for the violence to end. What is most disturbing about the current spate of xenophobic hysteria is that South Africa hails itself as a bastion of anti-racism.

Bongani Jonas, Chief of Metro Police, said law enforcement agencies have a duty to protect the lives and property of all who reside in this country.

“We have noted with great concern that the perpetrators of these attacks did not hesitate to use live ammunition against unarmed and defenceless people.

“Such acts will be met with the full might of the law”, he said.

President Thabo Mbeki has called for the violent attacks on foreign nationals residing in the country to come to an end.

Anger over unemployment and crime, which has been blamed on foreigners, has resulted in xenophobic violence erupting in the Gauteng province, leaving at least 22 people dead.

Some 6000 people, many of them Zimbabweans, have been displaced and were evicted from their homes by mobs. Many have sought refuge in police stations, churches and community halls.

Mr Mbeki said police would get “to the root of the anarchy”.

Up to three million foreigners are thought to be in living in South Africa, having fled violence and poverty at home.

“Citizens from other countries on the African continent and beyond are as human as we are and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity,” the President said in a statement.

“Our humanism as a people enjoins all of us to respect, care, cooperate and act in solidarity with others regardless of their nationality.”

The President said everything possible will be done to bring the perpetrators to book.

“Nothing can justify it. The law-enforcement agencies must and will respond with the requisite measures against anyone found to be involved in these attacks,” Mr Mbeki said.

The police have been forced to use rubber bullets to bring crowds to order, and have maintained a heavy presence in hot spots.

Theses areas include Katlehong, Diepsloot, Thokoza, Thembisa, Vosloorus, Makause, Hillbrow, Honeydew, Primrose and Ramaphosa informal settlements.

The attacks have also spread to KwaThema, Tsakane, Wattville and Daveyton.

In a meeting between the management of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Provincial Commissioner of Gauteng, Commissioner, Perumal Naidoo resolved that decisive police operations will be launched in order to counter the attacks.

Acting National Police Commissioner, Tim Williams said strong action will be taken against perpetrators and any person or group convening meetings with the intention of inciting violence and criminality will be arrested and prosecuted.

Additional members with experience and training in reacting to medium to high risk situations will be deployed in Gauteng, he said.

The Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality is currently accommodating 11 000 displaced people at Civic Centres throughout the metro area. They are being provided with security, blankets, food and health services.

The municipality has formed a Joint Operation Centre with key departments including the Metro Police, SAPS, disaster management, health, infrastructure services, housing and emergency services to closely look at the violence and future interventions.

The Salvation Army, Red Cross, Gift of the Givers, various churches and other orgnisations as well as the Gauteng Provincial Government have been providing blankets, food, and sanitation to help reduce the humanitarian situation.

The City of Cape Town’s Metro Police said they will act firmly against anyone who participates in violence attacks against foreign nationals.

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