More police dispatched to hot spots of xenophobia attacks in S. Africa

(Xinhua) — More police officers have been dispatched to hot spots of xenophobia attacks in South Africa to bring the situation under control, authorities said on Sunday.

This came after different areas around Durban in eastern South Africa had witnessed sporadic acts of violence against foreigners, most of them Somalis.

The situation in the impoverished townships of Isipingo, Chatsworth and Umlazi remained tense since xenophobia violence first erupted in Isipingo on March 25, a police source said.

Sporadic looting took place overnight, targeting foreign-owned shops, said the source who refused to be named.

He denied reports that the looting was helped by certain police officers.

On Friday night two foreigners were injured when an unidentified number of locals threw a petrol bomb at their shop in Umlazia.

This prompted national Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega to visit the troubled areas on Saturday.

She said foreigners living under the threat of attacks have been guarded by police.

“The police on the ground are working extremely hard to stabilize this violent situation,” she said.

Phiyega said criminals have taken advantage of the situation and are terrorizing communities.

In the latest spate of attacks, more than 100 foreign-owned shops were attacked and hundreds of foreigners were forced to leave their homes.

Local communities have blamed foreigners for taking up jobs that should have belonged to locals.

On Friday, South African President Jacob Zuma emphasized that no amount of economic hardship and discontent will ever justify attacking foreign nationals who own shops and other businesses, adding that the government condemns such attacks and will take action against perpetrators.

But Zuma also vowed to take action against illegal immigrants as there are growing complaints that many crimes are committed by illegal foreigners.

On Saturday, AU chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma expressed concern over the situation.

“We received a call from AU chair Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma while she was in London wanting to know about the situation. We are also in communication with various embassies and consulates about the situation,” KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu said.

Xenophobia is deeply rooted in South Africa. In May 2008, more than 60 people were killed in a wave of xenophobic violence across South Africa. The government has consistently sought to downplay animosity towards foreigners.