SA cops, army crack down on racist attacks

xenophobiaThis is not xenophobia just criminals
JOHANNESBURG - The South African government was on Monday forced to deploy soldiers in the troubled Western Cape province after locals attacked foreign nationals in some areas.

Hundreds of foreigners, most of them Zimbabweans who work in the nearby farms, filled the roadside for the better part of this week, beginning on Sunday, as they sought to flee the attacks, which had claimed at least three lives and destroyed property by Monday.

The attacks were reported in mainly Nyanga, Philipi East, Khayelitsha and Gugulethu where over 120 foreigners were forced to seek refuge in nearby police stations and community halls. The locals began by attacking Somali-owned shops on Sunday night, before they began to attack every foreigner on sight and looting their property.

Police Minister, Nathi Mthethwa, who flew into the affected areas Monday, alongside defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, told The Zimbabwean they were the actions of criminals disguised as xenophobic attackers.

These are just criminals attacking people because they are able to make a living. It is not xenophobia and we will deal with it as a crime of violence against citizens of this country, said Mthethwa, as he announced that at least seven people had been arrested for the attacks, which on Monday spread to trains.

The attacks had dwindled away by Tuesday morning, but Sisulu immediately ordered the deployment of the army in the affected areas, while law enforcement agents were on an alert all over the country. The ruling ANC condemned the attacks, calling on South Africans to work with the police in trying to end them.

Having successfully hosted the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup, the African National Congress (ANC) in the Western Cape urges all communities to continue to demonstrate the spirit of humanity beyond the soccer spectacular by showing tolerance towards foreign nationals, said ANC spokesman for the Western Cape, Mandla Dlamini.

We strongly condemn any attacks or acts of looting in shops owned by foreign nationals and call on the police to apprehend anyone behind such incidents. Xenophobia is a crime against humanity and perpetrators should be isolated by society. Let us all actively stand up and defend our stance on human rights.

We welcome the important initiative taken by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa in engaging with communities and other stakeholders on xenophobia. The ANC urges communities, leaders, churches and government departments to strengthen this initiative by organising similar meetings throughout the country. Let us ensure that perpetrators of xenophobia are not given any space to perpetuate acts which clash with our values and the Constitution.

No attacks had been reported in other parts of the country though, but residents in such areas as Alexandra and Diepsloot in Johannesburg reported renewed threats by some locals.

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