Thousands of people have attended a march in South Africa's coastal city of Durban in solidarity with the country's foreign nationals.

The march on Thursday, which included religious leaders and concerned citizens, comes after weeks of attacks against foreign nationals in which at least five people have been killed and 74 people arrested since the end of March, according to Colonel Jay Naicker, the police spokesperson.

Al Jazeera's Mukelwa Hlatshwayo, reporting from the march in the coastal city of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, said that as many as 5,000 people had joined the procession and that the atmosphere was calm with people ulilating and singing songs of solidarity.


Vox pop: People speak out against xenophobia in S Africa


Reuters news agency reported that bullets had been shot into the crowd but our reporter said she had only witnessed a few people shouting into the crowd on the sidelines of the procession that "foreigners must go home." 

Many shops remained closed in the business capital of the country, Johannesburg in the Gauteng province fearing attacks as well.

Groups of people were said to have travelled to Durban from other provinces to join in the show of solidarity with the foreign nationals.

Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa, reporting from Durban, tweeted the following: 

Similar attacks occurred in 2008, leaving at least 60 people dead.

Messages circulating on social media warned people in Gauteng province and KwaZulu-Natal to be on high alert for possible attacks and to also remain indoors.

Seeking refuge

In Malawi, officials have set up transit camps expected to house Malawians returning to the country, Kondwani Nankhumwa, the country's information minister, said.

More than 2,000 foreigners have already sought shelter in refugee camps in Durban, a South African aid group said on Wednesday.

The refugee camps, set up on sports fields around Durban, will not be large enough if attacks on immigrants continue, said Imtiaz Sooliman of the Gift of the Givers organisation.

Those who can afford it are planning to leave the country, he said.

"They've lost their houses, they've lost their businesses, they've lost everything," Sooliman said.

The organisation made the following appeal to the government on social media on Wednesday:

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma condemned the violence and assigned several cabinet ministers to work on the problem with officials in KwaZulu-Natal province.

The government is addressing South African citizens' "complaints about illegal and undocumented migrants, the takeover of local shops and other businesses by foreign nationals as well as perceptions that foreign nationals perpetrate crime", Zuma's office said in a statement.

He also issued a warning to illegally operating foreign-owned businesses to close their doors.

Some foreign nationals boycotted the march in protest against the South African government's efforts to resolve the problem. 

Our producer, Hlatshwayo, said that they are saying that government should protect them.

"There are still those out there feel that there are people who still don't want them there and that this has not been addressed."

She added that there is a feeling that the reach of the social media campaign was limited to the economic class that had access to it and that the anti-xenophobia message needed to be taken to the community as well.

Click on the image below to learn more about xenophobia in South Africa

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies