South Africa: 300 suspects arrested for anti-immigrant violence

Foreign nationals gesture after clashes broke out between a group of locals and police in Durban on April 14 ,2015 in ongoing violence against foreign nationals in Durban, South Africa. The attacks on immigrant-owned shops and homes in Durban's impoverished townships come three months after a similar spate of attacks on foreign-owned shops in Soweto, near Johannesburg. The Malawian government said on April 13, 2015 it would help repatriate its citizens from South Africa following an outbreak of xenophobic violence in the eastern port city of Durban that has left four people dead.
Foreign nationals gesture after clashes broke out between a group of locals and police in Durban on April 14 ,2015 in ongoing violence against foreign nationals in Durban, South Africa. The attacks on immigrant-owned shops and homes in Durban's impoverished townships come three months after a similar spate of attacks on foreign-owned shops in Soweto, near Johannesburg. The Malawian government said on April 13, 2015 it would help repatriate its citizens from South Africa following an outbreak of xenophobic violence in the eastern port city of Durban that has left four people dead.

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Story highlights

  • South Africa is battling xenophobic violence after some said foreigners are taking jobs away
  • A 14-year-old boy is among those killed after a mob with machetes targeted foreigners

(CNN)More than 300 suspects have been arrested in South Africa in connection with deadly attacks on foreigners that have forced thousands to flee, the government said Sunday.

"We once again unequivocally condemn the maiming and killing of our brothers and sisters from other parts of the continent," the government said. "No amount of frustration or anger can justify these attacks and looting of shops."
    Thousands sought refuge in temporary shelters after mobs with machetes attacked immigrants in Durban.
    The attacks in Durban killed two immigrants and three South Africans, including a 14-year-old boy, authorities said.
    Heavily armed police have scrambled to stop clashes after local residents accused immigrants from other African nations of taking their jobs.
    The government praised law enforcement agencies for stopping further bloodshed in Durban.
    "We believe that their commitment to duty has prevented injuries and even deaths that could have happened if they security forces had not acted," it said.

    'Disgusted with the attacks'

    The xenophobic sentiment is certainly not representative of all South Africans.
    "There has been an outpouring of support from ordinary South Africans who are disgusted with the attacks not only because they are foreign, or African, but because they are fellow human beings," said Gift of the Givers charity, which is helping those seeking refuge.
    The charity said last week that about 8,500 people had fled to refugee centers or police stations because of the violence.
    South Africa's government implored citizens to remember the country's history of overcoming challenges with the support of African neighbors.
    "During the Apartheid many South Africans fled persecution and death at the hands of the Apartheid government," it said in its statement. "Africa opened its doors and became a home away from home for many South Africans."
    President Jacob Zuma has canceled a trip to Indonesia and visited displaced foreign nationals in Chatsworth to express his support, the government said.

    History of anti-immigrant strife

    The Gift of the Givers charity assured immigrants that it has a facility in Johannesburg to help those who might need shelter there.
    "We have tents and all essential supplies on standby but pray that sanity prevails and this does not become necessary," it said.
    In the past, Johannesburg has been the epicenter of anti-immigrant tensions.
    In 2008, scores were killed in attacks in the poorest areas of Johannesburg.
    Most of the victims were Zimbabweans who had fled repression and dire economic circumstances. In that attack, police arrested more than 200 people for various crimes including rape, murder, robbery and theft.