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Xenophobic violence hits South Africa

Posted on Monday, 27 May 2013 15:35

South African Police spokesperson Lungelo Dlamini confirmed the killings and said law enforcement agents were monitoring the situation.

“Two people were shot dead by a shop owner who alleged that they were trying to rob him,” he is quoted as saying. “Allegedly some shops were attacked. Police intervened and the crowd was dispersed.”

Several foreign nationals have had to flee their homes and business in Orange Farm and Sebokeng township after locals attacked them on Friday.

The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CRMSA) described the attacks as “shocking”.

On Monday afternoon, none of the shop owners had returned to their shops, which remained closed.

Police said the community hall had been made available for those who lost their livelihoods.

The consortium’s Alfani Yoyo said, “it is shocking what is happening and we are not happy”.

Orange Farm located south of Johannesburg, and the neighbouring Sebokeng informal settlements are home to several foreign nationals. 

But like many poor informal settlements in the country, the competition for homes and jobs fuels jealousy and anger against foreign nationals.

A statement issued on behalf of the Member of the Mayoral Committee on Health and Social Development, Nonceba Molwele, said: “The City of Johannesburg condemns and disassociates with activities, which lead communities to take law into their hands on whatever issue, which brought unhappiness in their area”.

Social commentators say the attacks in the area were inseparable from a plethora of issues stalking these communities like crime, unemployment and access too low-cost housing.

According to police, last Thursday, they told foreigners in the area to leave. 

Police also received information that schools would be closed on Friday so that children could participate in the protest.

Later that day, shops in Sebokeng were looted and their foreign owners were chased out of town. 

The looting soon crossed the Gauteng border and spread to Orange Farm where over 100 people were arrested.

 They would be appearing in court later this week. 

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of the violent attacks on foreign nationals in 2008.

In 2011, about a hundred people were seriously injured and on average one person is killed every in xenophobic violence.

CRMSA said 2012 was no exception, as with every incident of service delivery protests, foreigners were “targeted, victimised and displaced”.

This year has also seen the numbers of those affected by xenophobia remaining high.

CRMSA said, the “sad reality is that attacks on non-nationals have continued over the years”.

Between January and February 2013, the group recorded over 10 incidences of xenophobic violence where more than 200 people were displaced.

CRMSA executive director Sicel’mpilo Shange-Buthane said, “we appreciate the work that has been done by government, civil society, academia and other stakeholders to address xenophobia and promote social cohesion since 2008, however, these have not been adequate thus far.”

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