Police in KwaZulu-Natal are waiting for a full report from Greenwood Park Police Station into alleged xenophobic violence that afflicted parts of the city on Tuesday.
South African and foreign nationals alike have been flooding social media with messages of support after graphic, shocking video and imagery did the rounds on Twitter and Facebook this week. Protests erupted, with police having to intervene in the areas of and surrounding Kenville, Inanda Road and Sea Cow Lake in Durban.
Lieutenant Colonel Thulani Zwane told News24 that “on 26 March 2019, at about 02:00, a group of community members were protesting in the Burnwood area in Sydenham”.
“They were forcing the foreign nationals out of their homes. No one was injured or assaulted. Police had to intervene and monitor the situation. More foreign nationals went to Sydenham police station for help.”
Zwane added that “no serious incidents were reported”.
This contradicted statements attributed to him in Daily Maverick where he was quoted as saying “three people had been shot by shop owners and two died” and “they were breaking into shops and looting. We have arrested two suspects for public violence. Investigations for murder and attempted murder are still continuing”.
News24 contacted Zwane to clarify this discrepancy, but by the time of writing, no response was forthcoming.
The protests on Tuesday in the Inanda Road area, near China Mall in Durban, were also believed to have caused the death, indirectly, of at least one woman. News24 reported a woman died and two others were seriously injured after falling from the roof of a mall in the area, while running away from violent protesters.
Zambia’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Emmanuel Mwamba, said on Wednesday that “we have noted with deep concern reports of what appears to be [a] sudden rise of xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals living in South Africa”, according to a report on xinhaunet.com.
“There are reports of foreign nationals being evicted from homes, beaten, harassed, stoned, and allegedly killed, especially in KwaZulu-Natal province.”
“Gruesome videos have been circulating on social media the last few days showing foreign nationals being beaten by mobs. Reports from our people indicate that Durban has been affected so far. Although no single Zambian is affected so far, it’s a matter we are watching closely and Zambians in South Africa are urged to call or reach us if they are in distress or assure us of their safety.”
The flare-ups coincide with the South African government kickstarting plans to deal with racism and xenophobia. News24 reported on Monday that a 67-page National Action Plan is being worked on as a tool aimed at dealing with racism, xenophobia and discrimination in general.
In a statement issued on Thursday, acting Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) director general, Phumla Williams, urged law enforcement to act against perpetrators.
Williams stated: “South Africa is a constitutional democracy governed by laws and as such, we expect everyone working and living in the country to be doing so legally and obey South Africa’s laws in their totality. Citizens from across the African continent supported our struggle for freedom and liberation and made immense sacrifices to provide safety and refuge to our people in exile, including our leaders.”
She added “government remains committed to building a society based on democratic values of social justice, human dignity, equality, non-racialism, non-sexism and the advancement of human rights. Government calls on all stakeholders, including community leaders, to stop and discourage attacks on foreign nationals.”