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Xenophobia Alleged In Violence Against Zimbabweans In S. African Town

Zimbabwean nationals in South Africa have called on police to protect them and other foreigners after attacks on Zimbabweans in Soshanguve, some 45 kilometers north of Pretoria, where they were accused of killing a local resident over an alleged theft.

Violence this past weekend against Zimbabweans in Soshanguve was prompted by the killing of Isaac Ngobeni, a South African alleged to have stolen from tuckshops, small food shops, operated by Zimbabwean and Mozambican immigrants.

Following his death a mob of some 2,000 local residents formed and attacked foreign nationals living in Soshanguve Extension 6, leaving dozens of Zimbabweans and Mozambicans injured, some seriously. Since then, locals have held a series of meetings in which they demanded all foreigners be forced to leave the area.

Scores Zimbabweans have fled the area and are hiding in neighboring townships, many of them the owners of shops looted by local residents.

The Zimbabwean emigré community has called on the South African police to protect innocent people who are now being forced to move out of the area.

Correspondent Benedict Nhlapho of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported.

A spokesman for the South African Department of Home Affairs disputed the claim that attacks motivated by xenophobia are on the rise. Mantshele Tau said his department is still investigating the events in Soshanguve, but insisted there is not a crisis.

But Zimbabwe Exiles Forum said South African police have ignored reports of violence against foreigners, saying seven people arrested in connection with the Soshanguve violence were released for lack of evidence, though the victims identified them.

Home Affairs Department Spokesman Tau told reporter Patience Rusere that South African police are doing their best to maintain law and order.

The Wikipedia says Soshanguve "was established in 1974 on land scheduled to be incorporated into a bantustan bordering on Mabopane in Bophuthatswana, to Sotho, Shangaan, Nguni and Venda people (thus the name)...resettled from Atteridgeville and Mamelodi." Soshanguve later became part of Tshwane (formerly metropolitan Pretoria). Riots occurred there in 2006 over poor service delivery.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...