Over 22 dead in anti-foreigner violence in South Africa(Lead)May 20th, 2008 - 12:11 am ICT by admin
Johannesburg, May 19 (DPA) The wave of deadly anti-immigrant violence in South Africa continued unabated Monday with police reporting several more deaths and dozens of homes torched, bringing the toll in eight days of rioting to 22. Hundreds of people have been injured in the attacks that began May 11 in a township northeast of Johannesburg before engulfing several other low-income areas over the weekend, including parts of the city centre.
Some 217 people have been arrested in connection with the attacks, which have forced around 10,000, mostly illegal migrants, from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and other neighbouring countries from their homes.
South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Monday urged people to stop the violence.
“This is not how we behave. These are our sisters and brothers. Please, please stop,” the activist bishop said, comparing the attacks, in which several people have been burnt to death, to apartheid-era factional violence.
Tutu echoed African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma in recalling how South African refugees had been given a home in neighbouring countries when they had to flee theirs during apartheid.
South Africans were now “disgracing” the memory of those heroes, he warned.
With police appearing to be outmatched at times over the past week by gun-toting, roving groups of youths who accuse foreigners of taking their jobs, homes and even women, human rights groups have joined opposition calls for the military to be deployed.
South Africa’s Human Rights Commission called the situation “a state of emergency” and the government’s response “inadequate” while the Nelson Mandela Foundation said it was “appalled” at the violence.
President Thabo Mbeki, who has condemned the attacks, Sunday announced the establishment of a panel to inquire into the violence.
The panel is expected to review the government’s non-interventionist policy on immigration, among other possible causes of the flare-up, such as high unemployment and poverty rates in townships.
South Africa, Africa’s biggest economy, is a magnet for poor African migrants.
Up to 3 million Zimbabweans are estimated to have fled their country’s economic and political chaos to South Africa in recent years, putting a significant strain on resources in poor communities.
Eight days of violence has left part of parts of the city looking like a war zone, with scores of homes razed to the ground, shops smashed and looted and burnt-out upended cars dotting the streets.
Some South Africans have also been been targeted, usually because they are married to foreigners or are mistaken for foreigners because they speak the same language.