The cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria have been plagued by violence since Sunday. One hundred and eighty-nine people were arrested.
Two days after the start of a new wave of xenophobic violence in South Africa, five people were killed, local police said Tuesday (September 3rd). One hundred and eighty-nine people were arrested. “There have been five killings” in Johannesburg, the country’s main city, according to a police statement, which said it has deployed reinforcements in “hot spots”. “The greatest number” of the victims are South Africans, said South African Minister of Police Bheki Cele.
The violence and looting began on Sunday after the death of three people in the unexplained fire of a building in downtown Johannesburg, before spreading to other parts of the city, then to Pretoria. Dozens of stores have been vandalized and heavy trucks suspected of being driven by foreigners have been set on fire in KwaZulu-Natal province (north-east)
In Johannesburg, police drove hundreds of people armed with bricks and stones into the city center and ransomed rubber bullets into the township of Alexandra, which adjoins Sandton’s financial district. The night before, many shops had been looted and destroyed in the township.
Hitherto silent, President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke on Tuesday afternoon to “condemn in the strongest terms” xenophobic violence.
“The attacks on foreign traders are unacceptable,” he insisted in a video posted on Twitter. I want to stop them immediately. “There can be no justification for a South African to attack people in other countries,” said the president of the “rainbow nation” dreamed by his predecessor and mentor Nelson Mandela, who convened an emergency ministerial meeting.
I condemn the violence that has been spreading around a number of our provinces in the strongest terms. I’m convening the ministers in the security cluster today to make sure that we keep a close eye on these acts of wanton violence and find ways of stopping them. pic.twitter.com/sizZkwIyPO
— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 (@CyrilRamaphosa) September 3, 2019
South Africa, the continent’s most developed sub-Saharan economy, is the scene of xenophobic violence, fueled by high unemployment and poverty. But this new outbreak of fever has this time taken a continental turn.
The chairman of the commission of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, denounced Tuesday attacks “abject”. The Nigerian head of state, Muhammadu Buhari, said he was “very worried” about the violence against African immigrants, especially those from his country, and announced the arrival of a “special envoy” in South Africa.
On Monday, his government had threatened to take “decisive action” against South Africa. “The perpetual attacks against Nigerian nationals and their economic interests in South Africa are unacceptable, he had insurgent Monday on Twitter. Enough is enough! ”
I am sending a Special Envoy to President Ramaphosa to share our deep concern about the security of Nigerian lives and property in South Africa, and to ensure that the South African Government is doing everything within its power in this regard.
— Muhammadu Buhari (@MBuhari) September 3, 2019
- “They burned everything”
Many Nigerian personalities have called for a “total boycott” of South African companies, such as DSTV TV provider or telecom giant MTN, and to send South Africa’s ambassador back to Nigeria.
The violence of the last days has caused great concern in the immigrant communities of Johannesburg. “They burned everything,” Kamrul Hasan, a Bangladeshi trader, said on Tuesday in front of his burning business in Alexandra township. “Every six months it’s the same thing. So why stay here? I lost everything. If the [South African] government pays for my plane ticket, I will return to Bangladesh, “he said.
“Our nation is burning and bleeding,” denounced the head of the main opposition party, Mmusi Maimane, head of the Democratic Alliance (DA). “South Africans are scared and have no hope for the future (…). We are witnessing an economic and social collapse, and violent demonstrations, looting, large-scale destruction (…) are the obvious proof, “he said.
In 2015, seven people were killed during looting targeting foreign-owned businesses in Johannesburg and Durban (northeast). In 2008, xenophobic riots killed 62 people in the country.