South Africa xenophobia violence spreads to Cape Town (Lead)

May 23rd, 2008 - 2:33 pm ICT by admin  

Johannesburg, May 23 (DPA) An almost two-week orgy of xenophobic violence targeting mainly African migrants that has killed at least 43 people spread to Cape Town overnight, local media reported Friday. In the suburb of Milnerton, youths pillaged Somali businesses, according to SAFM radio. Police escorted the Somalis to safety.

On Thursday in Durban, a 23-year-old Malawian was shot in the stomach as hundreds of immigrants gathered outside a police station out of fear of possible attacks, SAPA news agency reported. The injured man was hospitalised in serious but stable condition.

The military was deployed Thursday to provide backup for police in Johannesburg to help end the attacks that have displaced up to 250,000 people in the worst violence in South Africa since the 1990s.

The deployment came a day after President Thabo Mbeki gave the nod for the military to be called in to help end the attacks.

Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula said a government task team on the attacks had asked mayors in Gauteng Province, where Johannesburg is situated, to identify empty public land where the displaced can be accommodated.

Most of the displaced have been sheltering at police stations and civic centres but a growing number have packed their bags for home.

Mozambique said Thursday more than 10,000 of its nationals had returned across the border from South Africa in recent days. Migrants from other African countries, including Zimbabwe and Malawi, have also been boarding buses out of the country, citing fears for their safety.

The exodus comes despite relative calm in and around Johannesburg, where the violence started against foreigners 13 days ago in the township of Alexandra.

More than 500 people have been arrested in connection with the attacks.

Soldiers Thursday provided backup for police during a raid on three workers’ hostels east of Johannesburg that netted 28 suspects and army helicopters were seen in the sky over Alexandra informal settlement, north-east of Johannesburg, in the morning.

Poor South Africans are accusing African migrants in their midst of taking jobs and public housing but officials have also noted a purely criminal element that has used the attacks to loot and rape.

Business and tourism leaders have expressed concerns that scenes of people being burnt to death by mobs could dent foreign investment and tourist arrivals. Several Western countries have already issued travel advisories for parts of South Africa.

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