Shops and homes owned by foreigners have been looted and torched over the last two weeks, with some South Africans alleging that the properties were brothels and drug dens.
Attacks against foreigners in the country have erupted regularly in recent years, fuelled by high unemployment and dire poverty.
Riot police in Pretoria formed lines to keep apart about 1,000 protesters as tensions rise between some South Africans and migrants from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Pakistan and elsewhere.
“We support the police,” South African marcher Aysha Ali, 25, told AFP.
“Nigerians are very bad, they are bringing drugs into our community. I support the protest.”
As police struggled to impose control, Mohammed Abdi, 31, from Somalia, told AFP: “We are looking for peace. People say we foreigners are here to sell drugs? They can search our shops.”
Some officers shot rubber rounds at close range at protesters lying on the ground, while some demonstrators carried rocks, AFP reporters witnessed.
President Jacob Zuma condemned the latest wave of xenophobic unrest, saying that there had been “destruction of property directed at non-nationals.”
“Residents in some communities blame non-nationals for the escalating crimes especially drug trafficking,” the presidency said in a statement on Friday.
Zuma called for South Africans not to use migrants as a scapegoat for the country’s widespread crime problems, but said the government would crack down on drug-dealing and illegal immigrants.
– ‘We are scared’ -In the last week, more than 20 shops have been targeted in Atteridgeville, outside Pretoria, while residents in Rosettenville, south of Johannesburg, attacked at least 12 houses.
“We have decided to not leave the house (during the march),” Alain Bome, a 47-year-old from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who has been in South Africa for 14 years, told AFP.
“We know very well there have been attacks. We are scared.”
The Nigerian government this week called for the African Union to step in to stop “xenophobic attacks” on its citizens in South Africa, claiming 20 Nigerians were killed last year.
South African authorities dismiss such numbers, saying many violent deaths in the country are due to criminal activity rather than anti-immigrant sentiment.
In 2008, South Africa experienced its worst bout of xenophobic violence, which left 62 people dead.
In 2015, at least seven people died in similar unrest in Johannesburg and the Indian Ocean city of Durban as African immigrants were hunted down and attacked by gangs.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said this week that 35 percent of the labour force was unemployed or has given up looking for work. DM
Want to watch Richard Poplak’s audition for SA’s Got Talent?
Who doesn’t? Alas, it was removed by the host site for prolific swearing*... Now that we’ve got your attention, we thought we’d take the opportunity to talk to you about the small matter of book burning and freedom of speech.
Since its release, Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s book Gangster State, has sparked numerous fascist-like behavior from certain members of the public (and the State). There have been planned book burnings, disrupted launches and Ace Magashule has openly called him a liar. And just to say thanks, a R10m defamation suit has been lodged against the author.
Pieter-Louis Myburgh is our latest Scorpio Investigative journalist recruit and we’re not going to let him and his crucial book be silenced. When the Cape Town launch was postponed, Maverick Insider stepped in and relocated it to a secure location so that Pieter-Louis’ revelations could be heard by the public. If we’ve learnt one thing over the past ten years it is this: when anyone tries to infringe on our constitutional rights, we have to fight back. Every day, our journalists are uncovering more details and evidence of State Capture and its various reincarnations. The rot is deep and the threats, like this recent one to freedom of speech, are real. You can support the cause by becoming an Insider and help free the speech that can make a difference.
*No video of Richard Poplak auditioning for SA’s Got Talent actually exists. Unless it does and we don’t know about it please send it through.
Magenta has no physical wavelength. It thus does not "exist" strictly speaking. Rather our brains are telling us that we are seeing "not green".