Xenophobic violence claims five lives

Five people were killed and 50 were injured on Sunday when xenophobic attacks spread to Cleveland, Johannesburg police said.

Spokesperson Captain Cheryl Engelbrecht said the violence started at about 1am. Foreigners, mainly Zimbabweans, were attacked at the Cleveland informal settlement.

”Two people were burnt and three people were beaten to death. Fifty others were taken to various hospitals for gunshot and stab wounds. About 300 people are seeking refuge at the Cleveland police station and more are coming in,” she said.

According to police, several shops were vandalised and goods were stolen.

”The situation is very tense at the moment and the police are monitoring the area,” said Engelbrecht.

Cleveland is a suburb on the main railway line to the East Rand and beyond, and is situated near the crossing of the N3 highway to Durban and the busy M2 elevated freeway to the inner city.

The violent attacks on foreigners started in Alexandra and by Saturday had spread from Alexandra to Diepsloot, Thokoza and Tembisa.

About 300 foreigners had flocked to the Thokoza community hall on Saturday, seeking safety after attacks broke out in the East Rand township.

Seven people were arrested for public violence on Saturday in Thokoza, according to police spokesperson Captain Mega Ndobe.

He said two shacks had been burnt down and a number of people had been injured. At least 50 foreigners had sought refuge at the Thokoza police station.

In Tembisa, one man was shot and killed and two others were injured, also in xenophobic attacks.

Spokesperson Captain Manyadza Ralidhivha said scores of Tembisa residents went on a rampage, destroying property that belonged to foreign nationals on Saturday. He said at least 15 shacks had been burnt down in Kanana, Tembisa.

The situation in Diepsloot continued to be ”tense and uncontrollable”, police said on Saturday.

Captain Louise Reed said extensions one and six were still volatile, with residents setting alight uncollected garbage in the streets. ”The residents are starting fires in the street and lighting up the garbage that has not been collected,” she said.

Protest march

Socialist organisations said in Johannesburg on Saturday that South Africa’s working class is turning its anger against immigrants instead of the ”true enemy”, the capitalists.

The organisations, attending a march organised by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), agreed that foreigners and South Africans should unite against the problems of underdevelopment.

About 200 people had joined Cosatu and other left-wing organisations at the Library Gardens in the Johannesburg CBD to protest against recent xenophobic attacks in Gauteng, the situation in Zimbabwe and soaring food prices.

Holding Cosatu banners saying ”Africans united”, protesters sang struggle songs and listened to speeches.

South African National Civics Organisation president Mlungisi Hlongwane said: ”The issue of xenophobia should end and it should end now.” He called for ”man-made boundaries” of countries to be ”demolished” to ensure all Africans free movement through the countries.

”Let us unite,” he said. ”African people should understand that we are all brothers and sisters.”

The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) handed out pamphlets saying a divided working class would win nothing but more than exploitation and oppression. Referring to the ”crisis” of housing in South Africa, the ZACF said: ”A battle between South Africans and immigrants over who gets the houses will only prolong the crisis.”

The organisation Keep Left blamed the government for underdevelopment, saying it has been slow to meet its promises. ”If government had kept their promises to deliver houses and jobs, then no one would be fighting over this.” — Sapa

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