Criminals cashing in on 'xenophobia'

2010-07-12 23:18

Cape Town - Police and troops remained out in force in Western Cape townships on Monday night after an outbreak of violence at the weekend in which foreigners were targeted.

They had been ordered to take "harsh" action to stamp out anti-foreigner threats after immigrants fearing violence sought refuge in several police stations.

Police spokesperson Frederick van Wyk said there were "sporadic incidents of looting" on Sunday night at shops belonging to foreigners on the Cape Flats, and in Wellington, Paarl, Franschhoek and Klapmuts.

The situation had returned to normal on Monday.

Van Wyk said no incidents were reported during the day.

President Jacob Zuma said on Monday that threats of an outbreak of xenophobic violence were still rumours.

"I'm not certain whether there have been threats of xenophobia. I know that there have been rumours that have been reported," he told journalists in Sandton.

"There have been reports, which we don't know the source of yet, that in fact there will be xenophobia attacks after 2010 (World Cup).

Real concrete report

"We are not necessarily failing to do our duty to ensure that it does not happen, but let us just make a distinction between a rumour and a real concrete report with a clear source of information."

"Government is on top of that situation and I'm sure people should not have fears because we are there as government to look at the security of people and, indeed, we are ready to deal with the situation of that nature."

Zuma said it was unlikely that South Africans would welcome World Cup visitors on the one hand and threaten foreigners on the other.

Earlier on Monday Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and his defence colleague Lindiwe Sisulu flew down to the province from Pretoria to get first-hand reports from senior law enforcement officers.

Mthethwa's spokesperson, Zweli Mnisi, said it had been discovered that criminals were using xenophobia as an excuse to create "anarchy and anxiety".

"Any criminality disguised as xenophobia won't be tolerated," he said.

Sisulu said in a statement the army would do all it could to help the police and vowed that anybody who targeted foreigners would be "dealt with".

Fear and crime

"Opportunistic criminals must know that we will deal with them harshly, there is no way we will allow them to spread fear and crime."

Spokesperson for provincial disaster management Daniella Ebenezer said 70 foreigners had sought refuge on Sunday night at the Mbekweni police station in Paarl and 22 at Wellington.

There were smaller numbers at police stations in Franschhoek and on the Cape Flats.

She said there were "sporadic" attacks on shops on Saturday in the region, and "some incidents of looting" on Sunday.

No-one had been seriously injured.

She said according to reports from police, spaza shops and containers used as shops were "damaged" in Mbekweni, Paarl East, Wellington and Nyanga on Sunday.

"Provincial and local government are on standby to provide humanitarian support, should this be required," Ebenezer said.