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Africa

President Zuma calls for end to xenophobic attacks in South Africa

President Zuma has condemned the wave of xenophobic violence that is sweeping through South Africa. At least six people have been killed in attacks targeting shops and homes of foreign nationals.

The latest outbreak of violence against immigrants in South Africa flared up two weeks ago after the Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini was reported to have said that foreign nationals must pack their bags and leave.

Members of the Zulu ethnic group took this as an invitation to attack foreign nationals from countries including Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Somalia and Ethiopia.

"They started beating us, looting our shops, taking our belongings and we had no power, we had to call the police and when the police came they couldn't control the situation. They just escorted us to the police station," said one of the people affected.

Meanwhile the Zulu king has dismissed the claims, saying that he had only referred to foreign nationals who were committing crimes in South Africa and getting away scot free. But this did not halt the tide of xenophobia that had been unleashed.

Attacks against foreign nationals spread from the city of Durban to residential townships where Malawians, Somalis, Ethiopians and others operate small trading shops.

A South African man gestures towards a group of foreigners in Durban

South Africans and foreigners face each other in Durban

Let the police do their job

On Wednesday (15.04.2015) the premier of KwaZulu-Natal province, Senzo Mchunu, and three ministers were instructed by President Jacob Zuma to visit the trouble-hit areas to reassure foreigners and restore order.

"There is no reason to attack other Africans, no reason at all. In South Africa nobody should feel unsafe because of other South Africans," Mchunu said.

Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba said nobody has the right to take the law into their own hands.

"The police will act to bring violence to a stop. We will arrest and prosecute to send the correct message. We must protect those who are under attack and who are being victimized," Gigaba said.

Foreign nationals have welcomed the government's call but many of them still feel unsafe.

President Zuma speaking in parliament

President Zuma has condemned the attacks on foreign nations

The African Diaspora Forum, a federation of African migrants assoociations in South Africa, says it is concerned that the xenophobic attacks which started in 2008, killing 62 people, 40 of them foreign nationals, had only escalated and more people have died over the past six years.

Aileen Magishu, a spokesperson for the forum, claims there has not been effective action by the South African government to stamp out the wave of xenophobia.

"More people have died, for instance over the past year, from the violence than those in 2008. There is very little response from the government," Magishu said, adding that only NGOs were doing something, together with the UNHCR.

On Thursday President Zuma called for an end to attacks on immigrants which he described as "shocking and unacceptable." Also on Thursday, police used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse anti-immigrant protesters in a suburb of Johannesburg.

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