South Africa violence touches Durban

Published on Tuesday 20th May 2008

Johannesburg (South Africa): Violence against foreigners in South Africa's black areas has spread to the port of Durban where a mob wielding clubs and broken bottles threatened a group of Nigerian residents in one of the city's townships.


Police said no-one had been hurt but property belonging to the Nigerians had been damaged.

News of the attack sent some 700 black migrants living in Durban to flee their homes and seek refuge in police stations and church halls.

Bheki Cele, KwaZulu-Natal's community safety minister said the violence was "political" and blamed the Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party for the trouble.

"These are purely criminal activities and they will be dealt with decisively in ensuring that xenophobic attacks are not used as scapegoats for criminals who want to serve their own selfish interests," Mr Cele said.

Police in Cape Town, South Africa's "mother city", were also put on high alert amid growing uncertainty among the area's large population of migrants from other African states, agency report said.

In the Pretoria and Johannesburg areas, where xenophobic violence exploded a week ago leaving at least 26 people dead, hundreds injured and thousands homeless, it was a relatively calm night.

Police reported that three people had been slightly injured in a squatter camp in Tembisa north of Johannesburg but the disturbance had been swiftly brought under control.

There are an estimated five million foreign nationals living and working in South Africa, at least three million of them Zimbabweans who have fled the rule of President Robert Mugabe in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

President Thabo Mbeki has announced the establishment of a "special committee" to examine the causes of the violence but his own government's failings to address the widespread poverty within South Africa itself and deal with the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe are blamed by opposition parties, human rights groups and NGOs.

The Institute of Race Relations issued a scathing indictment on Mr Mbeki's style of government, listing rampant crime, unemployment, education and corruption as they key areas where his government had failed.

"In failing to maintain the rule of law, the state had conditioned many poor communities to violent behaviour," the Institute said.