Sun, May 25, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Soldiers kill man in east Johannesburg

VISIBLE PRESENCE Mozambique has declared a state of emergency to free up funds to help its citizens, while disease threatened immigrants staying in makeshift camps


South African soldiers shot and killed a man in a slum area east of Johannesburg during operations to support police to quell anti-immigrant violence, an army spokesman said yesterday.

“We unfortunately had an incident where a member of the public was shot when he pointed a firearm at a soldier. He was shot dead,” army spokesman General Kwena Mangope said.

The incident happened on Friday at about 6pm in the East Rand area.

Meanwhile, thousands forced from their homes by anti-foreigner violence in South Africa are now reportedly threatened by disease in makeshift camps, and some immigrants said on Friday they felt safer hiding in open fields.

Neighboring Mozambique declared a state of emergency to free government funds for citizens fleeing attacks. South African police reported sporadic violence — but no deaths — across the country on Friday, leaving scores more homeless.

The situation in and around Johannesburg where the worst violence broke out was calmer on Friday. But aid workers say there are now fears about the spread of disease among the thousands who have taken shelter from the winter cold in police stations, churches and other temporary camps.

Cape Town police spokesman Billy Jones said about 400 people had sought shelter on a motor racetrack after 12 people were injured in overnight attacks on an informal settlement in Cape Town.

“The area is quiet now but we are maintaining a visible presence,” he said, adding that many of the displaced had been moved to various community centers and town halls.

At least 42 people have been killed in the violence and more than 25,000 foreigners displaced since attacks began earlier this month by South Africans who blame immigrants for crime and unemployment. More than 500 arrests have been made.

Bianca Tolboom, a nurse with the international aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres, said camps were overcrowded and there was concern about access to clean drinking water.

“Some people have been staying in the open air with not sufficient blankets, so now the main medical concerns are respiratory tract infections and diarrhea,” she said.

Thabo Masebe, spokesman for Gauteng Province, which includes Johannesburg, said authorities were identifying land where tents could be erected as temporary shelters.

Predicting an escalating “exodus,” Mozambique Foreign Minister Oldemiro Baloi said the state of emergency had been declared on Thursday night as thousands of Mozambicans flooded across the border.

Baloi said about 10,000 people had returned on their own while 620 people arrived in the Mozambican capital on Thursday in buses arranged by the consulate in Johannesburg.

The Mozambican government has released money and aid to help those returning. They are being assisted with transport to their home towns as well as clothes, food, blankets and basic cooking implements.

Police and prosecutors said “extraordinary” plans were being put in place to deal with cases “strongly and speedily.”

They said cases were being treated with high priority and special teams would ensure cases were brought to court quickly.

Prosecutors said the attacks were “unacceptable and violent” and that it “trusts the courts will deal with these cases with the full might of the law, to send a strong message that condemns this criminal behavior.”

Human Rights Watch, however, said courts have already dropped several cases because of a lack of evidence and called on South Africa not to deport any victims while their cases were pending.

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