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Anti-immigrant Violence in South Africa Spreads

  • Associated Press

A South African holds a sign as she stands on the side od a road in Sandton, as xenophobic violence continued, on April 18, 2015.

A South African holds a sign as she stands on the side od a road in Sandton, as xenophobic violence continued, on April 18, 2015.

Mobs in South Africa attacked shops owned by immigrants in a poor area of Johannesburg early Saturday following similar violence in another part of the country that killed six people, according to media reports.

There was a heavy police presence in Alexandra township after rioters looted some shops, burned tires and built street barricades overnight. The report says police fired rubber bullets in an attempt to stop the unrest, news outlet eNCA reported.

Several shops and cars owned by immigrants were torched in downtown Johannesburg in recent days.

Attacks on immigrants, many of them from other African countries, in and around the coastal city of Durban have subsided after the deaths of six people there, police said. Some 112 people were arrested in KwaZulu-Natal province, which includes Durban, during the riots there, according to authorities.

Some South Africans have accused immigrants of taking jobs and opportunities away from them in a country with high unemployment. The government has said it is addressing complaints about undocumented migrants, while noting that many foreign nationals are living legally in South Africa and contributing to economic development.

About 60 people died in similar unrest in South Africa in 2008. In January this year, four people died during a week of looting of foreign-owned shops and other violence in Soweto and other areas of Johannesburg.

Mugabe ‘shocked, disgusted'

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Saturday expressed shock and disgust at attacks on immigrants in neighboring South Africa and said his government was working to bring back home affected Zimbabwean citizens.

Mugabe said during a speech at a football stadium in the capital, Harare, to mark 35 years of Zimbabwe's independence that all Africans in South Africa should be treated with dignity.

"The act of treating other Africans in that horrible way can never be condoned by anyone," said the 91-year-old, speaking on behalf of the regional Southern African Development Community and African Union, both of which he currently chairs.

An estimated one million Zimbabweans live in South Africa having escaped an economic crisis and political violence at home over the last 15 years.

Zuma cancels trip

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma on Saturday canceled a state visit to Indonesia to deal with the anti-immigrant violence.

"The president once again expresses his condemnation of the attacks on foreign nationals and has urged the police to continue working round the clock to protect communities and bring perpetrators to book," the presidency said in a statement, adding that Zuma would visit a displacement camp on Saturday.

Some material for this report comes from Reuters.

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