S. Africa descends into chaos amid widespread riots, looting & violence against foreigners
Police have used tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to try and quell an ongoing outbreak of violence, rioting and looting across South Africa. So far, over 90 people have been arrested.
Rioters looted shops, created flaming barricades on roads and engaged in street fights with police, as attacks on immigrants and foreign-owned businesses increase. Some 50 businesses were looted and damaged on Sunday alone. It’s the second outbreak of such violence in the country in the space of a week.
David Tembe, Chief of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) urged motorists to exercise extreme caution on the highways and to avoid the Maritzburg street area entirely.
“We’ve stabilised the situation and arrested a few dozen people already,” Johannesburg police spokesman Wayne Minaar said.
“We can’t confirm the final figure right now but they will be charged for public violence … There’s also a charge of attempted murder being investigated.”
The wave of violence began last week in Pretoria, the country’s administrative capital, reportedly after a taxi driver was shot dead by a presumed drug dealer, who was a foreign national.
Some reports indicate that the current riots began after a fire in a building that killed three residents while others speculate that, with unemployment close to 30 percent, the general population is becoming increasingly desperate.
The unrest comes amid a backdrop of escalating tensions between authorities and foreign nationals over widespread efforts to shut down illegally operated businesses, including taxis and commercial trucking.
Truck and bus drivers have been warned by the International Cross-Border Traders Association that they may be targeted in attacks, as the situation continues to deteriorate.
Meanwhile the Zambian Ministry of Transport and Communications has issued a directive instructing Zambian truck and bus drivers to park their vehicles and avoid traveling to or through South Africa while the current wave of violence continues.
The continuing spate of xenophobic violence has been widely condemned by politicians and human rights organisations.
The Nigerian Minister for Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama described the situation as “sickening and depressing” while also decrying “ineffective police protection.”
Police Minister Bheki Cele declared the Johannesburg looting as a national emergency.