Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai Thursday visited a neighborhood in South Africa that was the scene last week of violent anti-foreigner attacks, many of whose were Zimbabwean citizens. Forty two people have been killed and 16,000 displaced by the violence as we hear from VOA's Scott Bobb in Johannesburg.
Hundreds of Zimbabweans displaced by recent anti-foreigner attacks in South Africa gave opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai a rousing welcome Thursday when he visited Alexandra township in northeastern Johannesburg.
Tsvangirai told the crowd that the violence which erupted 12 days ago in the township was partly caused by the political crisis in Zimbabwe. But he said he hoped South Africans would be more tolerant until the Zimbabwean problem is solved.
"In Zimbabwe, we have Malawians, we have Zambians, we have Mozambicans," said Tsvangirai. "We have never found it necessary to exclude our brothers. I am going home tomorrow to try to solve this problem."
He said he would return to Zimbabwe on Saturday and urged his compatriots to join him.
"I am hoping all of you can join me back home to solve the political crisis we have back home," said Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai left Zimbabwe shortly after being declared the winner of the March 29 presidential election. However, he did not score 50 percent of the vote and therefore is due to face President Robert Mugabe, who finished second, in a runoff election in five weeks.
The veteran opposition leader was due to return home last week to launch his campaign but postponed the trip amid reports of a plot to assassinate him.
Mr. Mugabe, who has governed Zimbabwe since independence 28 years ago, is due to launch his reelection campaign on Sunday.
An estimated three million Zimbabweans have fled their homeland because of political persecution and economic decline characterized by hyperinflation and 80 percent unemployment.
Many have come to South Africa and were among those targeted by enraged South Africans who accused them of taking jobs and public houses away from them.
The attacks eventually spread to some 21 impoverished communities in the Johannesburg area. They have subsided in recent days but new incidents have been reported in the northeastern provinces of Mpumalanga and Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Some critics blame the South African government for failing to address a widening gap between rich and poor as economic hardships worsen amid 10 percent inflation and skyrocketing prices for food and basic goods.
The government has promised an investigation and civic organizations say they will launch an anti-discrimination campaign. Police have made some 400 arrests and the army has been mobilized to provide back-up support as political leaders worry about the effect of the violence on business and the country's image abroad.