Cape Town came under attack as violence spreads in SA

Published on Thursday 22nd May 2008

South Africa: Violence against foreigners in South Africa spread to Cape Town overnight with people assaulted and shops looted.


"Groups within the crowd started to loot shops owned by Zimbabweans and other foreigners," police spokesman Billy Jones told news agency.

He said hundreds of African migrants had fled Cape Town's Du Noon squatter camp and 12 arrests had been made.

Officials are to meet to discuss how the wave of violence has hit South Africa's crucial mining industry.

More than 40 people have died and some 15,000 people have sought shelter since the violence initially flared up in the Johannesburg township of Alexandra almost two weeks ago.

There are fears that the unrest could have longer term consequences for the country.

Moeketski Mosola, head of South Africa Tourism, told the BBC the government is alarmed by the situation, especially as they are preparing to host the football World Cup in 2010 and more than half the country's tourists come from other parts of Africa.

On Thursday, troops were deployed to quell attacks - the first time soldiers have been used to stamp out unrest in South Africa since the 1994 end of apartheid.

Cape Town police said it took them eight hours to contain the unrest in Du Noon.

"Some people were assaulted, but mostly shops were looted," Mr Jones said.
A Nigerian shopkeeper told Die Burger newspaper that eight people stormed into his shop.

"They took everything, everything," he said.

Some 500 people, including Somalis, Mozambicans and Nigerians, as well as Zimbabweans fled their homes.

Attacks this week have also been reported in North-West province and Durban but most of the violence has been in the Gauteng region around Johannesburg, which is now reported to be relatively quiet.

The government and union leaders are to meet on Friday to address the crisis in the mining industry.

Medium-sized firm DRDGold said two of its workers - one of whom was South African - had died in violence near Johannesburg on Tuesday.

It said more than half of the miners on Thursday's day shift had failed to report for work. Almost a third of the mine's semi-skilled workers are foreign.

National Union of Mineworkers President Senzeni Zokwana appealed for calm.

"This situation has to stop; it cannot continue happening; it doesn't help the local people to chase others away. It is just wrong," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Mozambique's president has urged his compatriots not to respond to the attacks.

His government has also declared a state of emergency to cope with the exodus of an estimated 10,000 Mozambicans from South Africa.

The BBC's Karen Allen says there have been chaotic scenes and scuffles at a Johannesburg police station, as Mozambicans tried to scramble on board buses laid on by their embassy to take them home.

Some Zimbabweans are also going home, preferring to risk the violence there than stay in South Africa.

One Zimbabwean woman told the BBC she had decided to return home from Johannesburg after seeing a series of xenophobic attacks.

The 36-year-old woman said she had seen an armed gang douse a Mozambican immigrant with petrol and throw him into his burning shack.

"The screams of the burning Mozambican still haunt me. When I close my eyes to try to sleep, I see the man screaming for help. But no-one helps him," she said.

"I have never seen such barbarism."