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New Johannesburg clashes target migrants

September 9, 2019

In a fresh outburst of xenophobic violence in Johannesburg, at least one person has been killed after police clashed with looters. The violence follows a week of attacks on migrant-owned businesses in South Africa.

Rioters stand by burning debris in unrest aimed at migrants in Johannesburg
Earlier this week, protesters looted alleged foreign-owned shops in a Johannesburg suburbImage: Getty Images/AFP/M. Spatari

Security forces in Johannesburg confronted looters with stun grenades and rubber bullets on Sunday, in an attempt to break up crowds targeting migrant-owned businesses in the city's Central Business District. At least one person was killed and five others were injured.

The violence is the latest in a slew of anti-migrant attacks in South Africa's biggest city and elsewhere in the country. At least 10 people have been killed in the attacks, which have also sparked protests in several other African nations.

Police later put out a tweet stating that the situation had been brought under control.

Police spokesperson Xlolani Fihla confirmed the fatality to news agency Agence France-Presse following Sunday's unrest, though the cause of death was unable to be confirmed.

Read more: South Africans want foreign passports as a 'plan B'

'Totally unacceptable': Ramaphosa

Sunday's violence follows a week of attacks on migrant-owned businesses in South Africa, followed by reprisal attacks on South African businesses in Nigeria. South Africa has temporarily closed its embassies in Nigeria in response to the reprisal attacks.

In a video address on Twitter on Thursday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said attacks on businesses run by foreign nationals is "something totally unacceptable, something that we cannot allow to happen in South Africa."

Critics, however, have said the government has failed to address the serious problem of xenophobia in the country.

WEF overshadowed by xenophobic attacks

Economic pressure

South Africa is a major destination for economic migrants from neighboring Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Others come from South Asia and Nigeria looking for work in the continent's second-largest economy.

Read more: Cloud hangs over World Economic Forum on Africa

Despite its large economy, the nation is still struggling with an unemployment rate of 29% — a 16-year high — leading to growing desperation and tension among those out of work. There have also been complaints of corruption against the ruling ANC party placing strains on public services, despite Ramaphosa's pledges to tackle the issue. 

Foreign nationals are often accused of being criminals and drug dealers, and of undercutting South Africans for work, burdening limited social services and wooing South African women.

kmm/cmk (AFP/eNCA/South African Police Service)

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