Friday, May 23, 2008

Migrant attacks spread to Cape Town

The Capies have always disliked us Vaalies. And with good reason. Holidays were times when the Capies moved out to avoid the invaders from the north.

The Capies are a laid-back lot and we Vaalies were viewed as rowdy rabble-rousers coming to disturb the tranquil lives of the seasiders. They were right. We packed the streets, clubs and restaurants en masse not giving the locals a second glance.

Now it seems the Vaalies are back – not in person – but their terrible brutality towards foreigners. The flames of xenophobia have reached our Mother City.

The gubbermunt needs to tackle this problem forcefully before it gets completely out of hand and this “foreigner” inspired problem blows out into a full scale problem of civil disobedience spreading out of control.

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Anti-immigrant violence has spread to South Africa's second largest city, Cape Town, where mobs attacked Somalis and Zimbabweans and looted their homes and shops, police said on Friday.

Hundreds of African migrants were evacuated overnight from a squatter camp near Cape Town, the hub of South Africa's prized tourism industry. Somali-owned shops also were looted in Knysna, a resort town on the southwestern coast.

"We don't know the exact number of shops looted and burnt, but it's a lot," said Billy Jones, senior superintendent with the Western Cape provincial police. He added that one Somali died overnight but it was unclear whether the death was linked to the attacks.

At least 42 people have been killed and more than 25,000 driven from their homes in 12 days of attacks by mobs that accuse African migrants of taking jobs and fuelling crime. More than 500 people have been arrested.

The unrest began in Johannesburg area townships but has spread to other provinces. Authorities said a Malawian man was shot in Durban overnight and three other foreigners were stabbed in a separate attack in North West Province.

Police expect more attacks over the weekend and said they would seek additional assistance from the military if necessary.

Troops have joined police in operations in Johannesburg's seething shantytowns. President Thabo Mbeki approved army intervention to quell unrest that has threatened to destabilize Africa's largest economy.

The South African currency fell sharply earlier this week on the back of the violence. The rand was slightly firmer on Friday at 7.6650 to the U.S. dollar.

The violence comes amid power shortages and growing disaffection over Mbeki's pro-business policies. Soaring food and fuel prices helped push tensions between poor South Africans and immigrants to a breaking point. The attacks have also sent a chill through the business community.

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