/ 15 May 2008

Further clashes in tense Alexandra

Calm returned to Alexandra township on Wednesday night after earlier clashes between police and residents.

Hardly any activity was visible late on Wednesday night, besides the flashing blue lights of police patrol vehicles.

The stand-off between the police and residents arose in the aftermath of xenophobic attacks in the township this week, which have left a number of people dead.

Debris from the tense stand-off between police and some local residents, who clashed along London Road, was all that remained as residents turned in for the night.

Police earlier fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd of over 2 000 residents who gathered on the street to hold a meeting. It was unclear who had called the meeting or the motive for it.

Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar of the Johannesburg metro police said the group gathered between Sixth and Eighth streets along London Road at about 6.30pm.

He described the crowd as ”very aggressive”.

The residents had fired at police with live ammunition, but no injuries were reported. Fires were lit in various parts of the township. Along London Road a big fire was lit by residents, which was extinguished later by firefighters, who were also on the scene along with emergency services.

Tents were being erected at the Alexandra police station as more displaced foreigners streamed in for safety.

Many of them sat outside the station on the pavement as City of Johannesburg officials erected tents.

The South African Red Cross Society was expected to conduct another assessment on Wednesday as about an additional 100 foreigners had sought refuge at the station, spokesperson Freedom Ngubeni said.

About 370 foreigners had been registered by the Red Cross on Tuesday. Among them were a few South Africans who did not speak the language of their attackers, said Ngubeni.

”They are scared for their lives,” she said.

The Red Cross had distributed about 400 blankets and food on Tuesday and were planning on distributing some more blankets and food on Wednesday.

Through Kaya FM, the organisation had appealed to the public for donations.

At the police station, aid workers from the Breakthrough Life Church cooked food and distributed clothes to the foreigners.

Women and children were housed inside one of the buildings while the men slept outside in tents that had just been erected.

In the midst of the turmoil the foreigners laughed and joked. The men huddled up against each other and shared blankets to fight the cold as they prepared to spend the night in the tent outside. — Sapa