Police deploy 800 cops but xenophobia spreads in KwaZulu-Natal

15 April 2015 - 17:15 By Nivashni Nair

Attacks on foreign nationals‚ which started in Durban‚ have spread to Pietermaritzburg. A group of about 15 South Africans attempted to loot Congolese-owned shops in the city centre.Midlands police spokesman Constable Kenetth Ngobese said police were called to East Street before the group could strike."They dispersed when police arrived but have regrouped and are moving around the city centre‚" he said.Foreign shopowners immediately closed their shops."Police are still monitoring because the group are still within the CBD. We have not used stun grenades or bullets because it has not come to that‚" Ngobese said.Pakistani shopowners in Phoenix‚ north of Durban‚ also closed their shops and proceeded to the local police station for protection after it was rumoured that an angry mob were headed their way.KwaZulu-Natal police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said foreigners across the province were closing their businesses."They are hearing rumours of imminent attacks so they are closing their stores‚" he said.He said claims of riots and fatalities in the Durban city centre were false."There are a large number of people gathering in the Point area but nothing has happened. It is quiet‚" he said.He appealed to social media users to stop posting false information online."Spreading false information on the number of deaths and attacks‚ the different areas that are being attacked and hate speech aimed at foreign nationals not only causes undue panic in communities but also have the potential to fuel the violence.""The responsible use of social media can contribute greatly in our fight against crime by making people aware of the consequences of engaging in criminal activity‚ ways to safeguard themselves and their property against criminals and to help police identify and find suspects‚" he said.Since the start of the attacks‚ 74 people have been arrested on charges of murder‚ public violence‚ business robbery‚ theft and possession of firearms and ammunition.Three foreign nationals and two South Africans - including a 14-year old who was gunned down in Ntuzuma during looting on Monday night - have lost their lives since attacks on foreigners began in Isipingo‚ south of Durban‚ three weeks ago.Over the weekend fresh attacks broke out in the northern KwaMashu and Ntuzuma areas.On Monday night the wave of xenophobic violence spread into the central Umbilo suburb.Durban's city centre was a battlefield yesterday when angry mobs of South Africans attacked foreign-owned shops and foreign nationals took up arms to fight back.The violence spread to Verulam‚ north of Durban‚ last night when five foreigners were stabbed and assaulted when two shops were looted.National police commissioner General Riah Phiyega has deployed 800 police officers to restore peace.KwaZulu-Natal provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni said police were doing everything in their power to restore peace and stability.“We once again discourage people from taking the law into their own hands and caution that those found to be breaking the law will be prosecuted. They must stop committing criminal activities and report those suspects wanted by the police for crimes that were already reported in the area‚” she said.

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day, Financial Mail or Rand Daily Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.