Fears are rising that South Africa could face a new wave of xenophobic violence as mock eviction notices are issued to foreign traders in townships around Johannesburg, the scenes of bloody violence in May 2008.
In one settlement, Pakistani and Somali shopkeepers have temporarily closed and are staying indoors, some saying the police ordered them to do so for their own safety. Last week, more than 50 -Somali-owned shops in Port Elizabeth were attacked, burned and looted.
On Thursday, human rights groups marched through the center of Johannesburg to protest against attacks on foreigners, mostly Somalis and Zimbabweans.
Now a graphic video has emerged over the weekend showing a mob beating to death a Zimbabwean man. The images have shocked South Africans and will increase the pressure on South African President Jacob Zuma to act.
The images, taken on a mobile phone by freelance reporter Golden Mtika in the township of Diepsloot and given to the New York Times shows 26-year-old -Farai Kujirichita being set upon by a crowd of men, women and children who wrongly believed he was a criminal.
Just 11 hours earlier, in a different part of the sprawling, densely packed settlement, another Zimbabwean, Patries Zanke, had been killed by a different mob.
“Just being a Zimbabwean is a crime here, you do not have to be a criminal or to be a thief,” said Joseph Makota, a 32-year-old driver whose home is close to where Kujirichita lived with his three brothers after fleeing the turmoil of Zimbabwe in 2003. “We have been waiting for something to happen, it is very tense.”
Katlego Matheta, an eyewitness to the murder, said mob justice was normal in Diepsloot.
“It’s simple to kill a person here. They are not scared to kill here,” he said.
Estimates of the total number of legal and illegal immigrants in South Africa range from 3 million to 7 million. In townships like Diepsloot, on the northern edge of Johannesburg, where 150,000 people live, unemployment is about 50 percent and there are no police stations.
In May 2008, South Africa’s image as the rainbow nation took a hard knock as xenophobic violence ignited, moving from city to city, but the security crackdown during the run-up to the hugely successful soccer World Cup kept attacks on foreigners down.
Last week, the UN human rights council discussed recommendations from UN special rapporteur Jorge Bustamante that South Africa draw up new anti-hate crime legislation and set up a police task force to implement it.