S Africa violence reaches Cape Town

Neighbouring Mozambique sets up "emergency mechanism" as migrants flee to its border.

    Police and the army have been deployed to contain the violence [AFP]

    Shops looted
    Police said that 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.
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    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".
    "Some of the businesses [that have been] looted and emptied of their goods essentially belonged to the Somali community," she said.
    In Durban, on the east coast of South Africa, one man was shot dead and in Mumpalanga northwest province three foreigners were attacked on Thursday.
    "The army did come out to support security operations mounted by the the South African police if things got out of hand," said Ndege. 
    "The authorities and police and army are poised to act if there are any more incidents of violence."

    Billy Jones, senior superintendent with the Western Cape provincial police, said: "We don't know the exact number of shops looted and burnt, but it's a lot."


    He added that one Somali died overnight but it was unclear whether the death was linked to the attacks.


    At least 42 people have been killed and more than 25,000 driven from their homes since unrest broke out 12 days ago.


    The migrants are accused of taking jobs from South Africans and fuelling crime.


    'Peer pressure'


    A group of black South Africans involved in the violence told Ndege in Johannesburg that foreigners were undoing years of fighting against white rule and undermining the minimum wage.


    Police are patrolling the streets and the army has been called in to contain an outbreak of violence.


    Sfiso Nkosi, a 26-year-old local in Primrose, Johannesburg, took part in the violence and, like others, shared in the spoils of the unrest - property looted from foreigners.


    He said he had no choice but to join in the violence as there was peer pressure to do so.


    Mozambique expects many more of its citizens
    to return, following the violence [AFP]

    Other locals expressed anger, arguing that Africans from neighbouring countries were prepared to work for only $4 a day when they insist on a minimum of wage of at least $12.


    They were also angry with white South Africans who employ foreigners for what they say is next to nothing.


    Responding to the charge that black South Africans are lazy and unwilling to work as hard as their poorer neighbours and were chasing away the competition, the group asked why they should have to toil for so little or be poor in a country rich with diamonds and gold.


    Immigrants from nearby countries are drawn to South Africa because it has one of the strongest economies in the region and a stable democracy.


    The foreigners, most of whom fled economic meltdown in neighbouring Zimbabwe, have been blamed for a rising crime rate in the country, as well as depriving locals of employment opportunities.

    The unofficial unemployment rate in South Africa is believed to be about 40 per cent.

    Troops deployed


    About 200 soldiers have been deployed to assist police with search and arrest operations in Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city, and the unrest there appeared to be under control on Friday.


    While government officials did not give details on the specifics of the army's role, Sally de Beer, the national police spokeswoman, said they would provide a support role rather than taking over law enforcement operations.
    She also said that the army had equipment "that we might need for special operations" such as helicopters.

    Government officials have suggested the possibility that the attacks on foreigners are not spontaneous but organised, possibly for political reasons.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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