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Foreign-owned shops in South Africa have been attacked and looted in eastern Johannesburg, the latest in a series of xenophobic attacks.

Police said about 200 foreigners took refuge at a police station, and 12 people were arrested over the attacks.

The violence comes despite Thursday’s rally against xenophobia in the coastal city of Durban, and condemnation from President Jacob Zuma.

At least five people have died in anti-foreigner attacks in recent weeks.

Many jobless South Africans accuse foreigners of taking jobs in a country where the unemployment rate is 24%.

‘Shocking’

A black crowd began looting foreign-owned shops in east Johannesburg on Thursday night, and a car, and a building believed to house foreigners, were set on fire.

Eyewitness Raphael Nkomo told the BBC: “A group of black men were dropped from a minibus. All of them were armed with [knives]. They started chasing people, throwing stones at them, hitting them… what I saw was very, very terrifying.”

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the looters. Correspondents say no serious injuries have been reported.


How many foreign nationals are there?

  • Official data suggests about two million foreign nationals are in South Africa – about 4% of the total population. However, other estimates put the number of immigrants at five million.
  • In Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, about 7% of the population are thought to be non-citizens.
  • In 2012, Zimbabweans received the largest number of temporary residence permits (17%), followed by nationals from Nigeria, India, China, Pakistan and the UK.

Sources: Census 2011 data, Statistics South Africa, International Organization for Migration, University of the Witwatersrand.


 

The acting Premier of the Gauteng province around Johannesburg, Qedani Mahlangu, condemned the violence.

“We have to, each and every South African who’s a peace-loving South African, to stand up and condemn this,” she told the BBC.

“Today we can’t… say that we want to live in isolation when the whole world is globalising.”

On Friday, police used rubber bullets to disperse a group of foreign nationals in Johannesburg who had armed themselves with machetes for protection.

 

President Zuma condemned the recent xenophobic attacks as “shocking”.

“No amount of frustration or anger can justify the attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops,” he told parliament on Thursday.

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini has been accused of fuelling the attacks by saying that foreigners should “go back to their countries”. However, he said that his comments had been distorted.

The police have established 24-hour joint operation centres to clamp down on attacks on foreign nationals, the BBC’s Milton Nkosi in Johannesburg reports.

Many South Africans are against the violence, but are also unhappy with the level of immigration and feel they are being undercut by immigrants from poorer countries, our correspondent adds.

At least 62 people died in xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2008.

 

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