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South Africa Unveils Plan to Counter Xenophobia


The government of South Africa says it has a plan to prevent any new outbreak of violence against foreigners. The announcement follows widespread fears in some communities of attacks, similar to those two years ago, in which dozens of people were killed and thousands displaced.

A task force of senior officials from a half-dozen South African ministries unveiled a plan to deal with any threats against foreigners.

The plan was drawn up amid rumors that foreigners, primarily from other African countries, would be targeted after the football World Cup ends on Sunday.

Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, said the government was aware of the reports but to date they had not been substantiated.

"We are taking these rumors seriously because we do not want them to end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy," said Gigaba.

There have been reports in the South African media that some foreigners were leaving the country after being threatened.

Gigaba acknowledged there had been an increase in traffic across the country's borders but said this was due to the football tournament and not fears of xenophobic (anti-foreigner) attacks.

Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa said security forces were on high alert to ensure that any threats or manifestations of violence were addressed.

"There is law enforcement in South Africa and government will do everything in its power, together with its people, to protect everybody within the country," said Mthethwa.

Two years ago, 62 people were killed and more than 100,000 were made homeless in an outbreak of violence, primarily in impoverished neighborhoods, in various parts of the country.

The attacks were accompanied by looting and burning of shops and homes.

Some of the victims were South Africans but the attacks appeared aimed primarily at foreigners who are accused by some of taking jobs and low-cost housing away from South Africans.

The violence was widely condemned by the government and people of South Africa who donated millions of dollars to help the victims.

Officials said government investigations revealed that the violence was driven mainly by criminal elements in areas with high levels of poverty and unemployment.

The government said it was taking measures to prevent any new outbreaks by encouraging dialogue and education through churches, community policing forums and civic groups.

The task force urged members of the community to report information of any planned attacks and pledged swift justice for any perpetrators.

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