/ 15 May 2008

Townships tense after xenophobic attacks

Johannesburg townships Alexandra and Diepsloot were tense on Thursday morning in the wake of xenophobic violence that has killed a number of people since the weekend, police said.

Captain Louise Reed said one man was injured in a suspected mob attack in Diepsloot on Wednesday evening.

”The situation in Diepsloot is tense. In what we suspect was xenophobic attacks, a mob threw stones at the police and looted spaza shops,” Reed said.

She could not confirm a South African Broadcasting Corporation report that two people were killed in Diepsloot or that the violence started when foreigners fleeing Alexandra township arrived in taxis in Diepsloot.

Diepsloot residents blocked the entrance into the township outside Krugersdorp on the West Rand on Wednesday, burning tyres and placing objects in the road.

A heavy police presence is monitoring the situation.

Chris Vondo, secretary of the African National Congress (ANC) at Zone 14 in Diepsloot, said the situation on Thursday morning was cause for concern.

”People are drunk and they are regrouping now; they are closing the streets and looting spaza shops. This is no longer xenophobia, these are criminal elements,” said Vondo.

He said he knew of at least two injuries as a result of mob violence during the night.

The local ANC leadership will meet with the station commander on Thursday to discuss the situation, he added.

Police director Govindsamy Mariemuthoo said Alexandra township was calm on Wednesday night. The last incident happened at 8pm when shots were fired at the police and the police dispersed a crowd with rubber bullets.

Mariemuthoo said according to the information he received, two people were killed in Alexandra on Sunday evening and dozens were injured.

However, police spokesperson Constable Neria Malefetse on Tuesday said that another man was shot dead in more violence on Monday evening, which would take the death toll to three.

Mariemuthoo said official police documents showed only two deaths since the suspected xenophobic attacks started on Sunday, but the figure might be revised later.

The police have arrested more than 50 people for various crimes, including rape, murder and robbery.

Meanwhile, ANC provincial chairperson Paul Mashatile said on Wednesday there is no campaign to drive foreigners out of Alexandra.

He said the violence that erupted in Alexandra was ”an act of criminality” and expressed the party’s concern over the situation.

ANC national executive committee member Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, accompanied by provincial ministers from Gauteng and senior ANC leadership figures in the province, on Wednesday visited the families of two of those who had died in the violence to sympathise with them.

South African citizen Pretty Nzama’s husband, Siphiwe (also a South African), was killed in the attacks in Alexandra on Sunday night. Nzama — who was visited by Madikizela-Mandela who prayed with her — said men came into her home and shot her husband for no reason, leaving her and her seven-year-old child behind.

Earlier, curious onlookers lined the street as Madikizela-Mandela was accompanied by a large security contingency. She was also followed by a number of media representatives in their vehicles, bringing traffic in the township to a halt.

The former wife of Nelson Mandela spoke to foreign residents who were displaced by the violence and had sought shelter at the Alexandra police station.

”I am sorry … It is not all South Africans that are like this,” she told the group. — Sapa