This week’s attacks on foreigners were criminal acts, not xenophobia, the South African Communist Party (SACP) said on Tuesday.
A criminal element was “hell-bent” on manipulating the problems and challenges facing communities, the SACP said in a statement.
“These are no xenophobic attacks… but acts of criminality to loot and destabilise our communities to provide cover for these criminals.”
It called on structures in the tripartite alliance and other “progressive organisations” to unite against these criminals.
“Our structures must equally take a lead in providing leadership in dealing with genuine service delivery crises,” it said.
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union said law enforcement agencies should investigate “these criminal elements” and throw them behind bars.
At the same time the government needed to ensure that underlying social problems in communities were speedily resolved so that lack of service delivery could not be used as an excuse to target foreigners.
The media should also guard against exaggerating crimes against foreigners by labelling them xenophobic attacks as this could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In a statement also issued on Tuesday, the South African Institute of Race Relations warned that there had been little change in the environment that gave rise to the xenophobia attacks of 2008.
Spokesperson Catherine Schulze said the institute was not predicting an outbreak of violence, as there was not enough information to do so.
But it was cautioning that the environment that gave rise to the attacks of 2008 was “largely unchanged”.
“Poverty, unemployment, and incomes indicators have not shifted significantly since 2008, while high levels of crime and violence are an everyday reality in many poor communities.
“At the same time, reports of increased threats, some disguised as jokes and idle banter, created an enabling environment for a renewed series of attacks.”
She said the institute urged the government and the African National Congress to use their leadership positions to change perceptions that many black South Africans harboured towards foreign African immigrants.
The three statements came after a series of incidents in the Western Cape, where on Sunday night a number of foreign-owned spaza and container shops in Cape Town and surrounding towns were burned and looted.
Some vandalism and attempted looting continued during the day on Monday in Khayelitsha, where police helped Somali shop owners remove their goods.
Police said on Tuesday morning however that the situation was “calm”.
On Monday, President Jacob Zuma said though there had been rumours of planned new xenophobic violence, he was not certain there had been actual threats.
He said the government had established a ministerial commission to deal with the situation and people “should not have fears”.
In May, Gauteng-based academics said foreigners feared a resurgence of xenophobic violence against them after the 2010 World Cup.
In 2008, 62 people died and 150 000 were displaced in a wave of xenophobic attacks which started in Gauteng. –Sapa