SA alleged apartheid foes behind the violence

Published on Thursday 22nd May 2008

Cape Town (South Africa): South Africa's security chief on Friday accused rightwingers linked to the former apartheid government of fanning xenophobic violence that has spread to Cape Town, the second largest city and tourist centre.

At least 42 people have been killed and more than 25,000 driven from their homes in 12 days of attacks by mobs accusing migrants from other parts of Africa of taking jobs and fuelling crime.

The South African government has come under strong criticism for its slow reaction to the violence, which started in a Johannesburg township on May 11, and for not adequately addressing poverty widely blamed for the bloodshed.

But Manala Manzini, head of the National Intelligence Agency, told Reuters people linked to former apartheid security forces were stoking the violence.

"Definitely there is a third hand involved. There is a deliberate effort, orchestrated, well-planned," he said.

"We have information to the effect that elements that were involved in the pre-1994 election violence are in fact the same elements that have re-started contacts with people that they used in the past."

Manzini said some of the violence emanated from worker hostels where Zulu migrants traditionally live.

Much of the township bloodshed in the final years of apartheid involved brutal clashes between supporters of the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the African National Congress, which has been in power since the end of white rule.

IFP fighters were widely believed to be clandestinely sponsored by the apartheid government.

"We don't want to blame the IFP for this...but some of their people might be used," Manzini said.


Police said mobs attacked Somalis and Zimbabweans overnight in Cape Town and looted their homes and shops. More shops were looted in Lwandle township near Strand, north of Cape Town, and Knysna, a resort town on the southwest coast.

Hundreds of migrants were evacuated from a squatter camp near Cape Town, hub of the prized tourist industry.

"We don't know the exact number of shops looted and burnt, but it's a lot," said Billy Jones, senior superintendent with the Western Cape provincial police. He added that a Somali died but it was unclear whether this was linked to the attacks.

More than 500 people have been arrested in the violence.

Authorities said a Malawian man was shot in Durban overnight and three other foreigners were stabbed in North West Province.

Police expect more attacks over the weekend and said they would seek additional assistance from the military if necessary.

Earlier this week President Thabo Mbeki, criticised for what is seen as a weak response, authorised the army to help quell violence threatening to destabilise Africa's biggest economy.

The South African currency fell sharply earlier this week on the back of the violence before partly recovering on Thursday.

The violence comes amid power shortages and growing discontent which have also rattled investors.

Soaring food and fuel prices are seen by most analysts as the major factor in pushing tensions between poor South Africans and immigrants to breaking point.

Officials in the tourism industry, a cornerstone of the economy, are worried overseas visitors will stay away.

Nearly one million South Africans earn their living from tourism, which accounts for 8 percent of the country's GDP. The country is hoping to draw an additional half a million tourists for the 2010 soccer World Cup.

Mozambique said that nearly 13,000 migrants and their families had left South Africa since the violence broke out.

There are an estimated 3 million migrants fleeing Zimbabwe's economic collapse, making them the biggest group among some 5 million immigrants in a country of 50 million people.