Five people have been killed in xenophobic violence in South Africa, police said on Tuesday, as President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed to clamp down on the attacks and the African Union and Nigeria sounded their alarm.
Hordes of people — some armed with axes and machetes — gathered in Johannesburg’s central business district (CBD) 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.
Attacks on businesses run by “foreign nationals is something totally unacceptable, something that we cannot allow to happen in South Africa”, Ramaphosa said in a video address diffused on Twitter.
South African police fired rubber bullets and patrolled parts of Johannesburg on Tuesday after the financial capital was hit by a new wave of anti-foreigner violence.
Rocks, bricks and rubber bullets lay strewn across the empty streets of Alexandra after mobs plundered the township overnight, burning and looting shops in their path.
AFP photographers in Alexandra said police presence remained heavy and officers were still firing rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.
The Alexandra township was scene to a second night of urban rioting in Johannesburg, where hundreds of people marched through the streets on Monday in an unusually large expression of anti-foreigner sentiment.
More than 90 people were arrested on Monday in connection with the violence and looting of shops in Johannesburg and surrounding areas, the government said.
”We have so far arrested over 90 people in Johannesburg for public violence,” Gauteng Police spokeswoman Mathapelo Peters told reporters in Johannesburg.
Many of the impacted property owners belonged to foreign nationals mainly from other African countries and Asia.
Such violence breaks out sporadically in South Africa where many locals blame immigrants for high unemployment, particularly in manual labour.
“They burnt everything,” Bangladeshi shopowner Kamrul Hasan, 27, said 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.
‘Overwhelmed by hatred’
South African truckers also started a nation-wide strike on Sunday to protest against the employment of foreign drivers.
They staged road blockades and torched foreign-driven vehicles in various parts of the country on Monday.
At least another 20 people were arrested in connection with the truck attacks in the southeastern province of Kwazulu-Natal, bringing the total number up to more than 110, the government said in a statement.
South Africa is a major destination for economic migrants from the southern Africa region, with many moving from neighbouring Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe in search for work.
The violence has erupted on the eve of the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, where hundreds of political and business leaders will gather for three days on Wednesday.
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