United Nations condemns xenophobic attacks in SA

The United Nations has condemned a wave of xenophobic attacks in South Africa in which at least seven people died and scores of businesses were ruined and looted.

"There isn't anything that justifies the level of violence against another person for trying to make a livelihood and, in particular, in the African context, a guest in your home should not be harmed," Amina Jane Mohammed, the UN deputy secretary-general, said in an interview Thursday at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town.

High poverty levels on the continent are one of the factors driving the attacks and must be addressed, she said. Almost 800 million people live below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day, most of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, UN data shows.

South African Police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini said Thursday that there had been a "dramatic decline in public violence and looting" in Johannesburg and Pretoria with 289 people arrested since Sunday.

The violence erupted last week after a South African taxi driver was allegedly shot dead by a suspected Nigerian drug dealer in the capital, Pretoria, and saw scores of foreign-owned shops being looted and torched. The attacks spread to Johannesburg, the economic hub, this week and more than 50 shops and several vehicles were destroyed.

Police on Wednesday confirmed that five people were killed during the attacks. A further two bodies, burnt beyond recognition, were found in Alexandra, a township less than two miles from Johannesburg’s financial district, on Wednesday.

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari sent a special envoy to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to address the reported attacks on Nigerian citizens and property in Johannesburg.

While Ramaphosa has spoken out against the the violence, there must be "a strong voice of condemnation through all levels of leadership" in the country, said Mohammed, a former environment minister in Nigeria. South Africa can rebuild relations with its peers by engaging with the leaders of countries affected by the violence, she said.

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