Protesters took to the streets of Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital, to protest the presence of “foreigners” in the country based on the widespread belief that many are engaged in criminal activity and taking jobs from South Africans. Police responded to the protesters with water hoses, rubber bullets and tear gas.
South African president Jacob Zuma condemned the most recent wave of xenophobia, asking for calm and stating that most immigrants in South Africa are law-abiding citizens who add value to society and the economy.
Targeted migrant groups include Zimbabweans, Somalis and Nigerians. Xenophobia in South Africa is not new. In 2008, scores of immigrants were killed, while hundreds fled to other countries after xenophobic attacks occurred for similar reasons. King Goodwill Zwelithini, chief of the Zulu people, was blamed for the attacks in 2008 after releasing a video telling “foreigners” to pack their bags and go home.
The most recent spate of xenophobic attacks started in Rosettenville, a neighborhood south of Johannesburg, where residents burned down a dozen houses that they said were being used by Nigerians as drug dens and brothels.
Herman Mashaba, mayor of Johannesburg, was being blamed for inciting this most recent xenophobic violence after saying that South Africans were being held hostage by foreigners, who are often blamed for the country’s high unemployment rate.