Police on Monday said no fewer than 100 people ransacked shops in Johannesburg overnight, in fresh wave of xenophobia attacks in South African cities.
“We are following up on leads and we are expecting to make more arrests,” police spokesman Brig. Mathapelo Peters said.
She said she did not know the nationalities of the shopkeepers and police were waiting for owners to come forward, so that they could open cases of violence and damage to property.
Similar incidents have taken place in Pretoria this month, but police have been reluctant to characterised the attacks as being directed against foreigners.
Anti-immigrant violence has flared sporadically in South Africa against a background of near-record unemployment, with foreigners being accused of criminal activity and taking jobs from locals.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on Friday acknowledged violence had flared up against foreigners this year, saying that “unfortunately, xenophobic violence is not new in South Africa.”
On Friday, police fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse marches by hundreds of anti-immigrant protesters in Pretoria, after mobs looted stores believed to belong to immigrants. More than 150 people were arrested.
Also, a Reuters witness said doors and windows were smashed in, and food and other items were strewn on the floor in stores believed to belong to immigrants in Jeppestown, an area in the central business district.
“We’ve been stuck inside here until the police came,” Abdul Ebrahim, a Somali shop owner, said after emerging from his store, where a number of his colleagues had barricaded themselves.
“No one told us what they were looking for,” he added when asked why the mob had attacked his shop.
At least one person was arrested.
The Nigerian Government on Thursday urged the South African government to put in place measures to end the incessant xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in that country.
Minister of State Foreign Affairs Khadija Abba-Ibrahim, gave the task in Abuja during a second summon to the High Commissioner of South Africa to Nigeria, Mr Lulu Aaron-Mnguni, on the issue.
The Ministry had on Monday, Feb. 20, summoned the South Africa High Commissioner over the matter.
Nigerian buildings, properties and places of worship worth millions of dollars were destroyed by South Africans on Feb. 5 and 18.
“The Federal Government strongly urges the South African government to take all necessary measures to protect the lives and foreigners living and working in South Africa.
“Furthermore, the federal government urges the South African Government to bring perpetrators of these deplorable acts of violence to justice.
“The ministry continues to urge Nigerians in South Africa to remain calm and law abiding, and be vigilant at the same time.’’
“The Federal Government of Nigeria will strenuously work towards the protection of Nigerians everywhere, including in South Africa,” she added.
However, the minister said that no Nigerian lost their lives in the attacks contrary to reports in some media.
According to her, the reports that mentioned the killing of Nigerians in the xenophobic attacks are unsubstantiated.
“The ministry has not received the report of any death of Nigerian in the latest incidents of attacks against foreigners.