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South Africa arrests hundreds accused of anti-immigration violence

Monday, 20 April 2015

South Africa has arrested hundreds of suspects in connection with a recent wave of anti-immigration violence, the country's minister of home affairs said Sunday.

Speaking at a news conference, Malusi Gigaba said 307 suspects had been detained over the past three weeks on suspicion of involvement in attacks on Asian and African immigrants and their businesses.

"Everything is being done to restore peace and order," the BBC quoted Gigaba as saying. "The government will enforce the laws of the country and will not hesitate to act speedily and decisively. We also want to issue a stern warning to those who lend themselves to acts of public violence: We will find you, and you will be dealt with to the full might of the law."

The increase in violent attacks on foreigners has in the past two weeks resulted in at least seven deaths. In some Johannesburg neighborhoods, such as Alexandra, where on Saturday Mozambican national and street vendor Emmanuel Sithole was stabbed to death, residents both foreign and native have banded together to protect shops against looting and attacks by armed groups.

The attackers accuse immigrants of taking jobs away from natural citizens of South Africa, which has an unemployment rate of 24 percent.

Estimates put the number of immigrants in the country between two million and five million, or roughly 4 percent of the population. Thousands have fled their homes for makeshift camps, while neighboring countries Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique announced plans to evacuate areas where its citizens are being attacked.

Critics accused Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, an ally of South African President Jacob Zuma, of exacerbating the situation by saying immigrants should "go back to their countries." Zwelithini argued his words were taken out of context.

On Saturday Zuma reportedly told a group of displaced foreigners that the violence would be brought to an end, but members of the crowd called out and accused him of taking his time.

Source: UPI

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