More than 750 foreign nationals are being housed in community centres for safety amid the ongoing unrest which government says is not xenophobic.
Hundreds more are said to have taken refuge at police stations after being attacked.
This was revealed during a briefing by ministers of the security cluster on Tuesday afternoon.
“Hundreds of foreign nationals took refuge at police stations after coming under attack, 755 such persons are currently housed for safety at DH Williams and Tsholo Community Centres in Katlehong [Johannesburg]. The number is made up of 527 adults and 228 children. Processes are underway of offering humanitarian assistance as well as to reintegrate them back into the communities,” Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said.
She said calm had been restored in a number of hot spots, including Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane CBDs and in KwaZulu-Natal.
The minister said that intelligence agencies had been working around the clock to detect and prevent incidents of violence before announcing a number of “interventions”, which include:
- Intelligence-driven investigations that are ongoing to identify suspects and ring leaders;
- The arrest of 170 people;
- South Africa is working with embassies from the Southern African Development Community and all other countries to assist those who want to return to their countries of origin;
- Continuous multi-disciplinary integrated consultations with representatives in the trucking industry as well as with communities through various community structures to bring stability; and
- Close to 700 suspects have been arrested, since September 1 when there were flare-ups of violence in central Johannesburg.
Crime intelligence had been providing ongoing operational support through the submission of early warning reports at both provincial and national levels.
Mapisa-Nqakula also confirmed the death of 12 people – 10 South Africans and two foreign nationals.
She said that government had been working on better ways to address sexual crimes and gender-based violence.
“A committee will be set up by the SA Police Service (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to look at all cold cases which relate to sexual offences and gender based violence. In addition, SAPS has committed to training more female police officers to deal with victims of crimes against women and children at station level. This will go a long way in ensuring that victims are not subjected to secondary victimisation.
“The cluster has noted the high level of sexual offences at institutions of higher learning. To address this matter, the minister of police has been tasked to convene all vice-chancellors to reassess campus security. Furthermore, victim support and services will be strengthened.
“The NPA and SAPS have been instructed to review and update the anti-rape and sexual gender-based violence policy,” she said.
On calls for laws to be reviewed to ensure that parole is not granted to those convicted of sexual crimes and gender-based violence as well as the implementation of stricter bail conditions, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said that Parliament would have to begin that work.
Lamola cautioned that in amending laws to allow for the sexual offenders list to be made public, Parliament would have to consider the current climate and how publicising that list may affect the safety of offenders given society’s tendency of “vigilantism”.
Reviewing laws would aim to ensure parole is not granted to people who are convicted and implement stricter bail conditions for alleged sexual offenders.
Police Minister Bheki Cele emphasised that the majority of shops which have been looted and burnt mainly in Gauteng were owned by South Africans. He said that there was nothing to prove that there was an attack on foreign nationals and that criminals were burning and looting without prejudice.