South Africa vows crackdown on xenophobic attacks after five die

A Zulu resident of the Jeppe Men’s Hostel shouts encouragement while others brandish knobkerries in the Johannesburg CBD, after South Africa’s financial capital was hit by a new wave of anti-foreigner violence. (AFP)
Updated 03 September 2019

South Africa vows crackdown on xenophobic attacks after five die

  • Hordes of people — some armed with axes and machetes — gathered in Johannesburg’s central business district (CBD) for a third day of unrest directed against foreigners
  • Sporadic violence against foreign-owned stores and enterprises has a long history in South Africa, where many locals blame immigrants for high unemployment

JOHANNESBURG: Five people have been killed in xenophobic violence in South Africa, police said on Tuesday, as President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed to clamp down on the attacks and the African Union and Nigeria sounded their alarm.
Hordes of people — some armed with axes and machetes — gathered in Johannesburg’s central business district (CBD) for a third day of unrest directed against foreigners, hours after mobs burned and looted shops in the township of Alexandra, prompting police to fire rubber bullets to disperse them.
Five deaths — most of them South Africans — have been reported, police said, adding that 189 people had been arrested.
In a video address diffused on Twitter, Ramaphosa said attacks on businesses run by “foreign nationals is something totally unacceptable, something that we cannot allow to happen in South Africa.”
“I want it to stop immediately,” said Ramaphosa, adding that the violence had “no justification.”
Sporadic violence against foreign-owned stores and enterprises has a long history in South Africa, where many locals blame immigrants for high unemployment, particularly in manual labor.
The country is a major destination for economic migrants from neighboring Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Others come from much further afield, including South Asia and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.
But this week’s assaults seem to have been on a greater scale than in the past, although the full details remain unknown.
“They burned everything,” Bangladeshi shop owner Kamrul Hasan, 27, told AFP in Alexandra, adding that his shop gets attacked every three to six months.
“All my money is gone. If the (South African) government pays for my plane ticket, I will go back to Bangladesh,” he said.
Alexandra, one of the poorest urban areas in South Africa, is situated just five kilometers (three miles) from Sandton, the city’s gleaming business and shopping district.
More than 90 people were arrested on Monday in connection with the violence and looting of shops in Johannesburg and surrounding areas, the government said.
Similar incidents occurred in the capital Pretoria on Monday, when local media reported shacks and shops burning in the Marabastad — a central business area largely populated by economic migrants.
Nigeria summoned its South African ambassador to express “displeasure over the treatment of her citizens” and dispatched a special envoy, who is expected to arrive later this week.
Several Nigerians used social media to call for a boycott of South African companies, including telecoms provider MTN, satellite television service DSTV and retailer Shoprite.
Separately, African Union chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat condemned the violence “in the strongest terms” but said he was encouraged “by arrests already made by the South African authorities.”
The attacks on foreign stores began a day after South African truckers started a nationwide strike to protest against the employment of foreign drivers.
On Monday, they blocked roads and torched foreign-driven vehicles in parts of the country.
At least another 20 people were arrested in connection with those attacks in the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Deputy President David Mabuza condemned all attacks on foreign nationals.
“We are a nation founded on the values of ubuntu (humanity) as espoused by our founding father, President Nelson Mandela... we should always resist the temptation of being overwhelmed by hatred,” he said at a meeting with ministers in Cape Town on Tuesday.
The violence erupted ahead of a meeting of the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, where hundreds of political and business leaders will gather for three days from Wednesday.
David Makhura, the premier of Johannesburg’s Gauteng province, said rioting was not a solution.
“This issue can be dealt with without resorting to xenophobia,” Makhura told reporters. “There is no country that does not have foreign nationals.”
Opposition parties pinned the blame on the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
“South Africans are scared and lack real hope for the future,” said Mmusi Maimane, leader of the Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s official opposition. “We are seeing economic and social collapse in action.”
Ramaphosa took office after elections in May that he won on a platform of reviving the country’s economy and boost employment.
But in July, the national statistics office said joblessness had reached 29 percent — the highest since the country’s quarterly labor force survey was introduced 11 years earlier.


Poland seizes two for plotting Breivik-style attacks on Muslims

Updated 13 November 2019

Poland seizes two for plotting Breivik-style attacks on Muslims

  • The two suspects were taken into custody on Sunday in the capital Warsaw and the northern city of Szczecin
  • Breivik, an anti-Muslim neo-Nazi, massacred 77 people in Norway’s worst peacetime atrocity in July 2011

WARSAW: Polish agents arrested two people accused of planning attacks against Muslims inspired by Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik and suspected white supremacist Brenton Tarrant in New Zealand, the security service said on Wednesday.
The arrests follow a spate of attacks involving white supremacists targeting ethnic and religious minorities across the globe. Far-right groups have grown in strength in Poland, the largest of the European Union’s post-communist states.
The two suspects were taken into custody on Sunday in the capital Warsaw and the northern city of Szczecin.
“The arrests are the result of information collected earlier by the Internal Security Agency (ABW) about an extremist group whose aim was to intimidate Muslims living in Poland,” the statement said.
“The materials gathered during the investigation show the group modelled itself on terrorist attacks carried out by extremists including Anders Breivik (in 2011 in Norway) and Brenton Tarrant (in 2019 in New Zealand).”
The group intended to carry out attacks using firearms and explosives, the statement said, and during one search of a house in the Warsaw suburb of Wlochy, ABW agents found materials for making large quantities of explosives, guns and ammunition.
Breivik, an anti-Muslim neo-Nazi, massacred 77 people in Norway’s worst peacetime atrocity in July 2011.
Tarrant has been charged with an attack broadcast live on Facebook in 2019 on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 51 people and wounded dozens.