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21 May 2008 12:30
The xenophobic attacks in Gauteng appeared to have subsided, a provincial spokesperson said on Wednesday.
However, KwaZulu-Natal police are monitoring a possible outbreak of attacks there.
“There are no new reports of attacks,” said Thabo Masebe, deputy director of communications for the provincial government.
“Our sense is that the situation is under control, but we will continue to monitor the areas and take action when necessary.”
This would include watching developments on trains following a warning that commuters could be targeted.
About 25 people have been killed since the violence began in Alexandra last week and spread to informal settlements on the perimeter of Johannesburg.
A South African Press Association staffer in Sebokeng said some shops there had been looted earlier on Wednesday.
Masebe attributed the “calm” to the combination of police intervention and cooperation from the communities wracked by the violence, which saw people being burnt alive and homes and businesses destroyed.
Authorities are currently also working on maintaining food supplies for the thousands of people displaced by the violence and discussing finding alternative temporary shelter for people seeking refuge at police stations.
Police spokesperson Director Govindsamy Mariemuthoo said that over 300 people had been arrested so far and he would release updated figures on the number of people killed later on Wednesday.
Earlier, he said three people were shot and wounded at Phomolong in Tembisa on Tuesday night. They were taken to hospital.
Their nationality has not yet been established, he said.
A crowd also had to be dispersed in Kya Sands on the West Rand.
Mariemuthoo said one shack was set alight in Gugulethu and one in Ramaphosa on Tuesday night.
The crisis has displaced thousands of foreigners causing them to run for cover at police stations, churches and shelters with some seeking government assistance to return back home.
Earlier, the Safety and Security Ministry said it had asked the South African National Defence Force to help supply equipment, but not troops, to help control the attacks.
Safety and Security spokesperson Trevor Bloem said: “There has been no special request in terms of manpower, however, there are efforts for the military maybe to assist in terms of equipment.
The KwaZulu-Natal government said an attack on a tavern owned by Nigerians in Durban’s Umbilo was political, not xenophobic.
At least 150 people turned on the tavern owners on Tuesday night and a local hostel has decided not to admit foreigners.
KwaZulu-Natal’s Safety and Security minister Bheki Cele accused the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) of being behind the attacks, allegedly involving residents from the Dalton Road men’s hostel.
“There was a meeting of the IFP branch in Dalton yesterday [Tuesday] and ... I know it was them who went straight from there to the tavern and raided the place and smashed the cars,” Cele said.
At least 100 hostel dwellers converged on Durban’s Umbilo suburb on Wednesday, ordering foreigners to leave KwaZulu-Natal, police said.
Captain John Lazarus said many residents of the Dalton Road men’s hostel were armed with stones and bottles.
A large contingent of metro police and officers from the South African Police Services were monitoring the situation.
Asked about the possible deployment of the army, Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad said: “Once our security cluster has made an assessment of the security needs, we will decide. We will await a report from them. Obviously, you’re calling the army if the police is unable to cope.
“As far as I know, we are not there yet but we will await the report from our security cluster,” he told reporters at the International Media Forum in Johannesburg.
Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) on Wednesday expressed concern about calls for the army to be deployed.
While condemning the ongoing attacks, the LHR said deploying the army to police civilians was a concern as there was the lack of a legal framework for the military to get involved in what was essentially a police responsibility.
“Such use of the military risks exacerbating the situation and creating a security environment similar to that continuously used prior to 1994.
“In any event, investigation of crime, public safety and the prosecution of crimes committed against foreigners require members who are trained in those areas.
“The military is not equipped to bring to book perpetrators of crimes against xenophobia victims,” the LHR said in a statement.
It said the current situation provided an opportunity for police to regain the confidence of foreigners which has been eroded in the past by corruption, intimidation, harassment and unlawful arrests.
Soccer players condemn attacks
The South African Football Players Union on Wednesday condemned the xenophobic violence. It said the “barbaric attacks” raised suspicion about the existence of an “evil hand or a third force” wanting to bring about instability ahead of the Soccer World Cup.
“As the union, we call upon the National Intelligence Agency [NIA] to investigate the underlying causes of such attacks and the allegations that a third force is behind attacks to reverse the gains of our revolution,” it said in a statement.
The NIA on Tuesday confirmed its involvement in the investigation into the cause of the violence.
The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) on Wednesday said stricter measures were required to punish those responsible for the violence.
“We plead with the police to implement stricter measures to bring the guilty parties to book.”
The Rhema Church also called on the police to restore law and order to the affected communities.
It said government also needed to develop a “clear, effective policy and strategy” to deal with immigrants and refugees.
“Lastly, we appeal to the people of this wonderful rainbow nation of ours, to remember the miracle of our own victory over inequality and discrimination, and afford our fellow inhabitants of Africa and South Africa the same peace and freedoms we have enjoyed,” it said in a statement. - Sapa
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