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South African Agencies Seek More Aid for Attack Victims

  • Scott Bobb

South African relief agencies are appealing for additional aid to care for thousands of people displaced by a wave of attacks against foreigners in the Johannesburg area. The violence has lessened in recent days but sporadic incidents continue and officials worry that it could spread. Nearly two dozen people have been killed and more than 100 have been severely wounded in the attacks. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from Johannesburg.

Officials of the South African Red Cross Wednesday tripled an earlier aid appeal saying they need one-half million dollars to care for victims of the recent attacks in the Johannesburg area. Provincial director Mbuso Mthembu said the number of victims has more than doubled.

"They almost need everything. So from our side we have been able to respond with things like blankets. We have been able to respond with food. We have been able to respond with health kits," he said.

But he adds the number of centers needing help has risen from a handful to more than 20. The attacks broke out 10 days ago in northeastern Johannesburg but subsequently spread to other parts of the city. The violence was aimed primarily at foreigners, whom the attackers accused of taking jobs from South Africans and of committing crimes in their neighborhoods. Authorities say the motive has become mostly criminal.

South African leaders have condemned the attacks and many citizens have donated food and clothing to the victims. One of the best known of these, senior African National Congress leader Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Tuesday visited some of the victims and apologized on national radio.

"We are going to restore their dignity. And I am here to say on behalf of the ANC and on behalf of every concerned South African that we are so sorry. We are very, very sorry about what is happening," she said.

Red Cross Secretary-General David Stephens said his group needs funds to prepare for the long-term needs of the victims. "After this is over we have to continue to look at reconstructing lives, psychosocial support to people, physical support to people, looking at where we can link people with their families overseas because this is one of our programs," he said.

He said the Red Cross was launching an anti-discrimination campaign and its volunteers would work with leaders within the communities to discuss their differences and educate people on the need for tolerance.

Analysts say many South Africans are frustrated because of unfulfilled expectations raised following the end of apartheid 14 years ago. These hopes have been further dimmed by economic hardships caused by 40 percent unemployment, 10 percent inflation and skyrocketing prices for food and basic goods.

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