At least five people have been killed and dozens injured in the latest round of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, the police have said.
About 189 people have so far been arrested in South Africa’s biggest city, Johannesburg, after rioters looted shops and torched buildings and vehicles, reports the BBC.
Many of the shops targeted in the attacks are said to be owned by foreign nationals, including Nigerians.
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“We believe that these attacks are xenophobic,” said Dewa Mavhinga, southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch. But the country’s police minister, Bheki Cele, earlier responded that “criminality rather than xenophobia” was to blame for the “senseless violence”.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama disagreed, saying that Nigerian shops had been targeted by “mindless criminals” and promised to take “definitive measures”, he was quoted by the BBC.
In these waves of attacks, immigrants normally targeted are from Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and other neighbouring countries who are accused of taking all the jobs and engaging in criminal activities, such as drug trafficking and theft.
Following an alarm sounded by the African Union and Nigerian authorities, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, on Tuesday, condemned the attacks.
“I’m convening the ministers in the security cluster today to make sure that we keep a close eye on these acts of wanton violence and find ways of stopping them,” the president said.
“There can be no justification for any South African to attack people from other countries.”
Some South Africans, including high-profile members of the government, have, in the past, justified taking measures against the growing number of foreigners who they believe would soon take over the country if nothing is done.
“The whole of South Africa could be 80% dominated by foreign nationals and the future president of South Africa could be a foreign national… How can a city in South Africa be 80% foreign nationals? That is dangerous,” said the Deputy Minister of Police, Bongani Michael Mkongi in 2017.
He made the statement during a visit to a local police station where he accused foreign nationals in Hillbrow of economic sabotage. He also accused them of being behind the high crime rate, using unlicensed firearms, hijacking buildings and illegal trade.
“South Africans have surrendered their own city to the foreigners… We fought for this country, not only for us but for generations of South Africans to live in harmony in a non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa,” he added.
However, immigrants in South Africa are actively contributing to the growth of the South African economy by engaging in and creating businesses while paying value-added tax which is generating revenue for the country.
The current violence has thrown Africa into delirium as the continent is fostering integration and unity.