South Africa has been hit by an outbreak of xenophobic violence in its biggest city, attracting criticism from other African nations in the week political and business leaders from at least 28 countries gather in Cape Town.
A spate of violence that broke out in suburbs south of Johannesburg’s city center on Sunday and spread to the central business district on Monday saw the destruction of more than 50 mainly foreign-owned shops and business premises. Vehicles and properties were torched and widespread looting took place.
The attacks come ahead of the beginning of the African edition of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town today and before a state visit to South Africa next month by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The continuing attacks on Nigerian nationals and businesses in South Africa are unacceptable,” the Nigerian government said on Twitter. “Enough is enough. Nigeria will take definitive measures to ensure safety and protection of her citizens.”
The violence echoes sporadic outbreaks of attacks mainly targeting migrants from other African countries in some of South Africa’s poorest areas.
In 2008, about 60 people were killed and more than 50,000 forced from their homes, and in 2015 seven people died in violence. Migrants are seen as competition for scarce jobs and government services.
Other Nigerian politicians, including former presidential election candidate Oby Ezekwesili, called for stronger intervention by the government.
In separate development, South African truckers on Monday started a wildcat strike, protesting against foreign truck drivers.
More than 20 people were arrested in connection with attacks on trucks, possession of firearms and other weapons, and blocking of roads in Richards Bay, a key port, and other parts of KwaZulu-Natal province, police said.
Zambia warned its truck drivers, many of whom drive goods south to the South African port of Durban, to stay out of the country.
South African politicians condemned the violence, in which one person was shot dead, local television station eNCA said.
At least 110 people were arrested.
Looting spread to Alexandra, an impoverished area in northern Johannesburg, overnight and there was unrest in Marabastad in Pretoria, 702 Talk Radio reported.
There was a police presence yesterday in central Johannesburg, with some shops and schools closed.
Still, politicians from the African National Congress (ANC) have in the past made anti-immigrant comments and Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba has drawn criticism from human rights groups for his frequent attacks on undocumented migrants.
Mashaba is a member of the opposition Democratic Alliance.
The violence is “unacceptable,” ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule said in remarks broadcast on television.
“We condemn this violence which is taking place, irrespective of whatever reasons people want to give,” he said.
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