25,000 escape to Zambia from South Africa

More than 25,000 Zimbabweans are leaving South Africa for Zambia to escape xenophobic violence. Thousands of others are moving to Mozambique and Botswana, the Red Cross said on Monday.

Police on Sunday said the violent attacks on foreigners that started two weeks ago in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township had left 50 people dead in Gauteng province alone.

“In Zambia, our teams are expecting the arrival of 25,000 Zimbabweans, or 5,000 families. At least 5,500 Zimbabweans have had assistance to [get to] Mozambique and 342 have been received in centres near the border with Botswana,” said Red Cross Director for Southern Africa, Francoise Le Goff.

South Africa President Thabo Mbeki last week ordered the military to help the police restrain the violence, a move analysts saw as an admission by the government that the attacks on foreigners had become a national crisis that could destabilise Africa’s largest economy.

Many of the immigrants chased out of their homes have taken refuge in police stations, churches and government offices across Johannesburg where the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières and several other aid groups were providing assistance.

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