Xeno­pho­bia flares in Pre­to­ria

City po­lice ‘have a plan in place’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - WEEK­END ARGUS RE­PORTERS, REUTERS and ANA

SOUTH Africa’s cap­i­tal was on a knife’s edge as a storm of xeno­pho­bic vi­o­lence burst out in Pre­to­ria, while in Cape Town po­lice are re­port­edly pre­pared for pos­si­ble at­tacks against for­eign­ers.

There was a bit­ter stand- off be­tween lo­cals and for­eign­ers in the streets of Pre­to­ria yes­ter­day, with both sides hurl­ing in­sults and threats.

Po­lice fired rub­ber bul­lets at the groups, and by last night, said act­ing na­tional po­lice com­mis­sioner Lieu­tenant- Gen­eral Kho­motso Phahlane, 156 peo­ple had been ar­rested in con­nec­tion with this week’s loot­ing and vi­o­lence.

It was un­clear how many of those in cus­tody were South Africans and how many were for­eign­ers.

In Cape Town, against a back­drop of un­ease in for­eigner com­mu­ni­ties at the xeno­pho­bic sen­ti­ments be­ing ex­pressed in parts of the coun­try, a group rep­re­sent­ing Ghana­ian com­mit­tees in Khayelit­sha, Gugulethu, Nyanga, Langa and Philippi met se­nior po­lice of­fi­cials, who as­sured them there were no im­me­di­ate threats to for­eign­ers in the Western Cape, but said “plans (were) in place in case protests broke out”.

Pressed for de­tails of these plans, po­lice spokes­woman Con­sta­ble Noloyiso Rwex­ana said: “I am not in a po­si­tion to share op­er­a­tional mat­ters”.

Kofi Boa­hen, who owns a hair­dress­ing sa­lon in Gugulethu, said: “We fear re­port­ing any act of vi­o­lence be­cause we live with these peo­ple and, al­though the po­lice told us that they would do ev­ery­thing in their power to pro­tect us, we know they can only do so much.”

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma called on South Africans not to act in a xeno­pho­bic man­ner and to march peace­fully against crime.

Zuma also warned refugees in SA to “be­have” or risk be­ing dis­crim­i­nated against by the gov­ern­ment.

Zuma said: “In other coun­tries refugees are put in camps, but be­cause we re­spect the hu­man

and sticks

rights here we don’t.

“But if they op­er­ate the way they do they may be forc­ing us to dis­crim­i­nate (against) them and yet we thought we could han­dle the sit­u­a­tion.”

Zuma said it was me­dia re­ports which had sug­gested the marches were xeno­pho­bic in na­ture.

“The march in Mamelodi is anti-crime in the main; it is not xeno­pho­bic and I have been told that the peo­ple lead­ing the march are say­ing so.

“It is not an anti- for­eign­ers march. It is not anti-Nige­ri­ans as it has been por­trayed,” he said.

Anti- immigrant vi­o­lence has flared spo­rad­i­cally around the coun­try, with for­eign­ers be­ing ac­cused of tak­ing jobs from cit­i­zens and in­volve­ment in crime.

Yes­ter­day po­lice formed a bar­rier be­tween ri­val crowds of cit­i­zens and non-na­tion­als march­ing in Pre­to­ria, but both sides be­gan shout­ing at each other and bran­dish­ing rocks and sticks, prompt­ing po­lice to dis­perse them.

Shops were closed in Marabas­tad, western Pre­to­ria, where many for­eign­ers have stores, and roads were blocked as marchers gath­ered. Some for­eign­ers car­ried rocks and sticks, say­ing they were ready to pro­tect their stores.

A So­mali shopowner, 37, said he feared for his life. “My shops get looted a few times a year,” he said.

The marches fol­low the loot­ing this week of at least 20 small busi­nesses be­lieved to be­long to Nige­rian and Pak­istani immigrants. Res­i­dents said they had at­tacked the shops be­cause they were dens of pros­ti­tu­tion and drug deal­ing. Some said they had lost jobs to the for­eign­ers.

A 34-year old South African, who de­clined to be named, said a Zim­bab­wean took his job at a man­u­fac­tur­ing plant be­cause he was will­ing to work for less.

“The po­lice must leave us alone so we can sort them out,” he said, point­ing at a group of for­eign shop own­ers.

Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba on Thurs­day ac­knowl­edged vi­o­lence had flared up against for­eign­ers this year, adding that “un­for­tu­nately, xeno­pho­bic vi­o­lence is not new in South Africa”.

Ear­lier this week, Nige­ria’s for­eign min­istry said it would sum­mon South Africa’s en­voy to raise its con­cerns over “xeno­pho­bic at­tacks” on Nige­ri­ans, other Africans and Pak­ista­nis.

The Nel­son Man­dela Foun­da­tion has ex­pressed shock at the City of Tsh­wane’s grant­ing per­mis­sion for the march.

“We re­mind South Africans of Nel­son Man­dela’s firm re­jec­tion of xeno­pho­bia. In 1995 he ad­dressed a gath­er­ing in Alexan­dra and said: ‘Dur­ing the years I lived here, the peo­ple of Alexan­dra ig­nored tribal and eth­nic dis­tinc­tions. In­stead of be­ing Xhosas, or Sothos, or Zu­lus, or Shangaans, we were Alexan­drans. We were one peo­ple, and we un­der­mined the dis­tinc­tions that the apartheid gov­ern­ment tried so hard to im­pose. It sad­dens and angers me to see the ris­ing ha­tred of for­eign­ers.’”

Luzuko Koti, Nel­son Man­dela Foun­da­tion spokesper­son, said: “Our leadership from all sec­tors of so­ci­ety, gov­ern­ment lead­ers, busi­ness lead­ers, civil so­ci­ety, and par­ents who are lead­ers in homes, must rise from their com­fort and not just speak anti- xeno­pho­bic mes­sages but act to­wards so­cial co­he­sion and in­clu­sion. In­ac­tion in this mat­ter will have far reach­ing im­pli­ca­tions for South Africa and set us back decades as a sta­ble democ­racy”.

In re­tal­i­a­tion, Nige­rian pro­test­ers van­dalised the head of­fice of South African mo­bile phone com­pany MTN in Abuja on Thurs­day.

PIC­TURES: REUTERS

A man clings to his pass­port af­ter be­ing at­tacked by a mob as xeno­pho­bic vi­o­lence flared in Pre­to­ria yes­ter­day.

Po­lice used tear gas to dis­perse crowds on the streets af­ter marches turned vi­o­lent in the cap­i­tal city.

De­fi­ant pro­test­ers con­front law en­force­ment of­fi­cers as the ten­sion brewed be­tween lo­cals and for­eign­ers this week.

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