Xenophobia: South African Police Fire Rubber Bullets To Stop Clashes
By Ogbolu George with agency report
South African police on Friday, fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to break up clashes between local protesters and migrants in Pretoria at a march against immigration.
Nigerians and other foreigners had reported that their shops and homes were looted and torched in recent weeks, with some South Africans alleging that the properties were brothels and drug dens.
South Africa’s high unemployment and poverty levels have resulted in attacks against foreigners in recent years.
Police had formed lines to keep apart over 500 protesters in Pretoria, as tensions rise between some South Africans and migrants from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Pakistan and other countries.
”We are fed up with people bringing drugs to the youth and the crimes that go with it,”said a South African protester who refused to be named.
“We are not afraid of fighting.” Clement Melfort, a migrant from Zimbabwe who had come to see the march told AFP.
Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, condemned the latest wave of xenophobic unrest, saying that there had been “threats of violence and acts of intimidation and destruction of property directed at non-nationals.”
“Residents in some communities blame non-nationals for the escalating crimes especially drug trafficking,” the presidency said on Friday.
Zuma, who said the government would crack down on the drug-dealing and illegal immigrants, also said South Africans should not blame migrants for the country’s widespread crime problems.
‘We are scared’
Last week, more than 20 shops have been targeted in Atteridgeville, outside Pretoria.
”We have decided to not to leave the house (during the march),” Alain Bome, a 47-year-old from Democratic Republic of the Congo who has been in South Africa for 14 years, told AFP.
“We know very well there have been attacks. We are scared,” She added.
Earlier this week, the Nigerian government urged the African Union to step in to stop “xenophobic attacks” on its citizens in South Africa, claiming 20 Nigerians were killed last year.
South African authorities, however, dismiss such numbers, saying many violent deaths in the country were due to criminal activity rather than anti-immigrant sentiment.