South Africa seeks support to defeat xenophobic attacks

President Jacob Zuma

South Africa on Friday in Pretoria sought diplomatic support from countries across the continent to tackle the ongoing anti-immigrant violence in the country.

This was as a result of series of complaints by foreign nationals that the South African police are failing to protect them.

They said the crisis was stirring hostility to South Africans working abroad.

South African Foreign Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, told a reporter after the African diplomatic meeting in Pretoria, that there was urgent need to nip the crisis in the bud.

“We believe that working together we can defeat this demon,” she said.

Malawian Information Minister, Kondwani Nankhumwa, said on Friday that the country has hired buses to repatriate 500 of its nationals from South Africa.

He urged South Africa to provide greater protection for immigrants, echoing demands from China and the African Union.

Kenya and some other African governments have also offered to evacuate any of their citizens who feel threatened.

Chadian Ambassador, Mahamoud Adam-Bachir, said the Pretoria meeting had helped to alleviate some safety concerns.

“It went better than expected, we were assured of the security of our nationals,” he said.

The Foreign Ministry of China, a major trade partner of South Africa, said Chinese-run shops had been damaged in Johannesburg.

The Chinese consulate said it has lodged a protest with the police and asked that they ensure the safety of Chinese people.

Meanwhile, Petrochemicals group Sasol, said it would repatriate 340 South Africans working in Mozambique after local employees at one of its gas projects protested about their presence.

An industry source said Mozambican employees at a sub-contractor for mining group Vale had become “hostile” to South Africans working on the Moatize project in that country but there had been no violence.

The police said at the Ressano Garcia, the border post between South Africa and Mozambique was closed after more than 200 Mozambicans barricaded a road approaching the crossing.

The police said the traffic was later resumed after they dispersed the protesters.

South Africa, with a population of about 50 million, was home to an estimated five million immigrants, from countries including Somalia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and from further afield, including China and Pakistan.

Many own shops or sell wares as informal hawkers on street corners or in markets.

Periodic outbreaks of anti-immigrant violence have been blamed on high unemployment, officially around 25 per cent although economists say in reality much higher, widespread poverty and glaring income disparities.


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