Violence in South Africa spreads to Cape Town

Officials said yesterday that more than 10,000 Mozambicans have fled South Africa to escape the attacks which have killed at least 42 people. More than 500 people have been arrested.
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The wave of violence against foreigners in South Africa, which began 12 days ago in Johannesburg, has spread to Cape Town where Somalis and Zimbabweans have been attacked by mobs who have looted their homes and shops overnight, according to police.

Hundreds of African migrants were evacuated yesterday from a squatter camp near Cape Town as Somali-owned shops were looted in the resort town of Knysna, on the south-western coast.

More attacks were expected over the weekend, authorities have warned, adding that additional assistance from the military would be sought if necessary.

“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.

One Somali died overnight, he added, but it was unclear whether the death was linked to the attacks.

President Thabo Mbeki earlier sought army intervention in an attempt to quell the unrest as violence began to spread quickly with African immigrants accused of increasing crime and taking jobs.

Rapidly escalating food and fuel prices increased the tension between poor South Africans and immigrants. However the ruling party, the African National Congress, has criticised police for reacting too slowly to the attacks.

“The delay encouraged people in similar environments to wage similar attacks against people who came from our sister countries on the continent,” Kgalema Motlanthe, the ANC’s deputy leader told an international media industry conference in Johannesburg. “We are confronted by one of the ugliest incidents in the post-apartheid era”.

Several people have been burned to death in the violence and their homes and businesses looted and set fire to.

Officials said yesterday that more than 10,000 Mozambicans have fled South Africa to escape the attacks which have killed at least 42 people. More than 500 people have been arrested.

Millions of African immigrants have been attracted to South Africa by the flourishing economy and the prospect of a liberal immigration policy.

Despite the turbulent political situation and food shortages, Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s opposition leader, has said transportation would be made available to Zimbabweans willing to return home.

He said officials in his Movement for Democratic Change would help arrange transportation for refugees who wanted to go home to Zimbabwe.

Bishop Paul Verryn of the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg, where many Zimbabweans have fled, told the South African Broadcasting Corp that many refugees still feared further attacks.

“One senses a profound anxiety and fear,” he said.

Lee Glendinning and agencies
Friday May 23 2008

Source: Guardian

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