UN calls for end to anti-foreigner violence in South Africa

The UN refugee agency has condemned the recent xenophobic violence in South Africa and called on authorities in the country to ensure the perpetrators of the attacks are brought to justice.

It said those targeted in the attacks in Soweto, Johannesburg, included refugees and asylum-seekers accused by locals of taking hard-to-find jobs.

At least four foreigners were killed by angry mobs demanding that non-South Africans leave the country.

“Over the past few days, UNHCR staff have visited refugees and asylum-seekers affected by the recent violence in Soweto to assess their situation and needs. Many foreign shop owners have been affected by the violence and their small shops – often their only means of livelihoods – have been looted and destroyed,” the agency said in a briefing.

It warned that if not stopped, xenophobic attacks in the southern African nation “could lead to further damage and destruction”.

The privately-owned IOL news site reported on Tuesday that foreign shop owners in Mamelodi, near the administrative capital Pretoria, were fleeing the township for fear of attacks.

“Our brothers are fearing for their lives. Some shops are closed in anticipation of what’s going to happen on Saturday (September 8),” businessman Jamal Mahmoud told the news outlet.

A wave of anti-foreigner violence broke out in Soweto, home to a million poverty-stricken South Africans, after some residents accused a Somali store owner of shooting two people who allegedly attempted to break into his shop.

Locals also accused shop owners in the township of selling out-of-date food.

South African police said they arrested 27 people for the violence.

Many Somalis who fled the violence in their home country own shops in Soweto and have often been the target of xenophobia.

Farah Yussuf is a Digital Reporter with Star FM Kenya. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from Masinde Muliro University.

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