S Africa apologises for violence

Thousands flee as anti-immigrant violence spreads to Cape Town.

    Police and the army have moved to quell the
    violence spreading across the country [AFP]
    Twelve days of violence against foreigners in South Africa has led to the deaths of at least 42 people and driven more than 25,000 from their homes.
     
    At an African Union meeting in Tanzania, heads of state expressed "shock" at the deadly attacks on immigrants in South Africa, Jakaya Kikwete, the current AU chairman, said.
     
    Economic crisis
     
    Foreigners in South Africa, many of whom have come from Zimbabwe to escape their country's economic crisis, are being blamed for South Africa's high crime rate and for depriving locals of jobs.
     
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    Mozambique announced on Friday that 10,000 of its citizens had fled home in the past week and more were expected to follow.
     
    Oldermiro Baloi, Mozambique's foreign minister, denied reports that his country had imposed a state of emergency, but said it was setting up an "emergency mechanism" to deal with the thousands of its citizens who were fleeing the attacks and returning home.
     
    "We have set up an emergency mechanism operations centre in Maputo [Mozambique's capital]," he told Al Jazeera.
     
    Malawi has also started to move more than 850 of its citizens from South Africa.
     
    "More than 850 Malawians have been affected by the current violence," Ben Mbewe, Malawi's foreign affairs principal secretary, said in a statement.
     
    "All Malawians willing to return home will be evacuated and we have started the process."
     
    Violence spreads
     
    Although violence in Johannesburg appeared to have been contained by police and the army on Friday, police reported attacks on foreigners for the first time in the coastal city of Cape Town and elsewhere.
     
    Cape Town, in the Western Cape, is a major draw for tourists and had previously been spared the mob violence seen elsewhere.
     
    Police said mobs attacked Somalis and Zimbabweans in Cape Town on Friday, looting their homes and shops.
     
    Hundreds of African migrants were moved from a squatter camp near the city, while Somali-owned shops were also looted in Knysna, a resort town on the southwestern coast.
     
    Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege, reporting from South Africa, said immigrants were being chased from their homes.
     
    "At least 100 - but some are saying it's more - Somalis and Zimbabweans have been evicted from informal settlements," she said.
     
    She also reported that there had been attacks against Somali businesses due to "a perception in South Africa that Somalis come in and do well in business".
     

    Thousands of foreigners have fled the
    violence in South Africa [AFP]

    "Some of the businesses [that have been] looted and emptied of their goods essentially belonged to the Somali community," Ndege said.
     
    The new outbreaks came as the UN refugee agency increased its estimate of the number of displaced people to 17,000.
     
    The UNHCR said that "a very large percentage" of these were Zimbabweans.
     
    Police reported pockets of overnight unrest in Durban in the KwaZulu Natal region, where an unidentified foreigner was shot, and in North West province where two Pakistanis were stabbed.
     
    Northern-most Limpopo province also saw problems for the first time overnight when a Mozambican man was stabbed and 11 people were arrested, according to local police.
     
    Violence against foreigners has now been reported in seven of the country's nine provinces: Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu Natal, North West, and the Western Cape.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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