Another spate of attacks against immigrants has reawakened fears in South Africa of more xenophobic inspired attacks. However, in the wake of last week’s attacks, the country’s government have condemned violence that seemed to be focused on immigrants in poor and rural areas.
"The government is concerned about the reported attacks on foreign nationals in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo," said the state communications department on Thursday March 28th.
"We urge law enforcement agencies to ensure that perpetrators of these violent acts are brought to book".
The government has also called on community leaders to discourage the attacks on migrants that shook Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal communities. Local police confirmed the attacks which began during the evening of Sunday March 24th. The attackers appeared to target foreign-owned shops.
Over the next two days more violence was reported to police, with police spokesperson Thulani Zwane saying one group of attackers "were forcing the foreign nationals out of their homes.” He added that no reports of injuries had been received.
According to AFP, officers were forced to intervene but that "no serious incidents were reported." But by Wednesday, March 27th, some 300 foreign nationals had sought refuge at a local mosque in Durban.
The latest attack against foreigners appeared to be related to remarks from president Cyril Ramaphosa. The leader of the non-profit African Diaspora Union (AfriDu), Chidiebere Ogbu, said Ramaphosa’s comments during the ANC manifesto launch in January led to the latest attacks.
"His foot soldiers misunderstood him and started harassing innocent traders," said Ogbu.
The speech in question saw Ramaphosa pledging to crack down on businesses that operate illegally in townships and rural areas.
"We are going to bring this to an end and those who are operating illegally, wherever they come from must now know," Ramaphosa said during his speech.
But this is not the first time foreigners have been the victims of targeted attacks in South Africa. Foreigners and foreign-owned businesses have often been the target for violent attacks as they are seen to be the reason behind the chronic unemployment in South Africa.