Zulu King tells foreigners to leave, anti-foreigner riots explodes
A new wave of anti-immigrant violence has exploded across South Africa. The rioting is centered around Durban, the capitol of the Kwa-Zulu Natal. Immigrant owned shops have been attacked and looted. Foreigners have been beaten in the streets. The death toll has reached at least five. Hundreds of foreigners have fled the city.
The rioting began immediately after Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini called on foreigners to leave. Riot police have clashed with both the rioters and with groups of foreign nationals.
There are now reports of anti-foreigner rioting in Johannesburg.
Under Apartheid, the Zulu were being given the Kwa-Zulu Natal as an independent homeland. They had already been granted semi-autonomy. The Zulu are the largest of ten different black tribal groups that were stripped of their sovereignty by the ANC and forced to become part of the new South Africa. The worst violence during the fall of Apartheid was between the ANC and the Zulu. At the time, the ANC was dominated by Xhosa, a major enemy of the Zulu, and urban blacks with no tribal affiliation.
It began after the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, told his followers last month that foreigners in South Africa should pack up and leave. President Jacob Zuma’s eldest son, Edward, chimed in that foreigners were “taking over the country” in a “ticking time bomb.”
Then last week, violent attacks on immigrant shopkeepers in Durban townships exploded and have continued since. Dozens of immigrants in Johannesburg and other cities shuttered their shops Wednesday as anonymous cellphone text messages warned that Zulu people were coming to kill immigrants in neighborhoods with large migrant populations.
One message read: “Wednesday, Zulu people are coming to town starting from Market (Street) their mission is to kill every foreigner on the road please pass this to all your contacts in case they come people should be on alert.”
A wave of anti-foreigner violence that has killed five people in and around the South African city of Durban in recent days (12-14 April) has spread to Johannesburg. Immigrants in the country’s biggest city shut their shops in fear of attacks.
A mobile phone text message sent to shop owners warned them to shut their premises, claiming that “Zulu people are coming to town … to kill every foreigner on the road”.
Shops owned by foreigners in Durban, a key port on South Africa’s Indian Ocean coast, have been looted and burnt during the violence.
Police fired rubber bullets to disperse angry crowds, as protests were held by both immigrants and locals, some brandishing hatchets and machetes.
Attacks on foreigners continued this weekend, with two Ethiopian brothers being petrol bombed on Friday evening.
AFP reports that one of the brothers succumbed to his injuries last night.
“The hospital has informed us that our brother (meaning a fellow Ethiopian) died. They said he died shortly after arriving in hospital,” said Ephraim Meskele, leader of the Ethiopian community in Durban.
Meskele said the other brother had severe burns and was “fighting for his life” in hospital.
“This is like a war zone. It’s like we are in Syria. I have never seen such cruelty,” Meskele told AFP.
According to EWN another five shops were looted on Friday, and a Pakistani family’s business was allegedly destroyed.
KwaZulu Natal police are maintaining a heavy police presence around KwaMashu and Umlazi, and police spokesperson Thulani Zwane says the situation is currently calm.
“The situation was previously tense after a number of people attacked foreign owned shops. They looted and burnt shops down. They also blocked off roads by burning tyres as well as placing rocks which made it difficult for police to respond,” Zwane said.