Contextual Content

Xenophobic violence erupts in South Africa

Twenty-four people are dead and 10,000 are seeking refuge as xenophobic violence in South Africa continues for the fifth day. The targets of violence come mainly from Zimbabwe, but also includes people from Somalia, Mozambique and Malawi. Xenophobia has always existed in South Africa but with rising unemployment, spiraling food costs, and an increased influx of immigrants across the border, foreigners have become soft targets. South Africa’s Mail and Guardian reported that "the police had concrete evidence of a suspected third-force involvement in xenophobic attacks." As of Tuesday 297 people had been arrested in relation to the violence.

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Story Transcript

VOICE OF ZAA NKWETA, PRODUCER/PRESENTER: Twenty-four people are dead and 10,000 are seeking refuge as xenophobic violence in South Africa continues for the fifth day. The majority of the victims have been immigrants from Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa living in squatter camps. Foreigners are an easy target because they are seen as competing for scarce resources. South Africans are struggling to buy food as prices rise, amid stubbornly high unemployment. The South African Red Cross and other aid groups appealed for funds to take care for the hundreds of people who have been displaced. Some victims were set alight.

FIROZ CACHALIA, MEC (MEMBER OF EXECUTIVE COUNCIL) FOR COMMUNITY SAFETY IN GAUTENG PROVINCE: South Africa represents an emancipation from tribalism, from discrimination– that’s what we represent to ourselves in the world, and so it was an embarrassment. It was shocking.

NKWETA: President Mbeki’s government has blamed the attack on an unnamed third force. South Africa’s Mail and guardian Newspaper reported on Tuesday that the police had "concrete evidence" of a suspected third-force involvement in [the] xenophobic attacks.

ZIMBABWEAN RESIDENT: Initially we came here for safety reasons, but otherwise the people think otherwise. That’s why they are attacking these foreigners. It seems like it is a political thing now. If the government does not have the answer to why there is this unemployment fast going high and so forth, then it seems as if it’s the song of every government that if there is a problem they find a scapegoat.

NKWETA: As of midday Tuesday, 297 people had been arrested in relation to the violence.

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