CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Apr 16 – South African President Jacob Zuma on Thursday appealed for the end of attacks on immigrants as a wave of violence that has left at least six people dead threatened to spread across the country.
In the past two weeks, shops and homes owned by Somalis, Ethiopians, Malawians and other immigrants in Durban and surrounding townships have been targeted, forcing families to flee to camps protected by armed guards.
Foreign-owned shops in the Jeppestown area of Johannesburg were attacked overnight, while police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse anti-immigrant protesters in the Actonville area on Thursday.
“We have witnessed shocking and unacceptable incidents of violence directed at foreign nationals,” Zuma told parliament in Cape Town.
“No amount of frustration or anger can ever justify the attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops
“We appeal for calm, an end to the violence and restraint. Criminal elements should not be allowed to take advantage of the concerns of citizens to sow mayhem and destruction.
“The police have been directed to work round the clock to protect both foreign nationals and citizens and to arrest looters and those committing acts of violence.”
Police have vowed to quell the unrest, which claimed its latest victim on Monday when a 14-year-old boy was killed in KwaMashu, a township north of Durban.
In 2008, 62 people were killed in similar violence in Johannesburg townships.