South Africa President Jacob Zuma has described a Friday march against illegal immigrants in the capital Pretoria as crime and not xenophobic attacks.
Zuma said on Friday in Pretoria during the launch of a government initiative, few hours after the demonstrators, who came together as Mamelodi Concerned Residents, clashed with police in Pretoria West at around 11am.
“I have been told people leading the march are saying it is not an anti-foreigners march, it is anti-crime. Those involved in crime happen to be among them, those who come from other countries,” said the President.
He, however, advised South Africans not to blame all criminal activities on foreigners, calling for threats and counterthreats on social media to stop.
According to local sources and the Eye Witness Radio of South Africa, immigrants particularly Somalians were highly affected. However, it is reported that the immigrants were also armed to protect themselves, a development believed to have worsened the tension between the two groups, resulting in police using force rubber bullets, cannons and teargas to disperse the groups.
The police also confiscated pangas and other weapons from foreign nationals, including making arrests.
Nonetheless, the Mamelodi C o n c e r n e d R e s i d e n t s succeeded in handing over their memorandum to the Home Affairs offices in Pretoria.
As of 3pm on Friday, peace had restored, but there was still heavy police presence in the Pretoria West and central business district.
The locals are accusing foreigners of drug trafficking and prostitution, accusations some leaders of the Somali community in South Africa trashed.
“Somalians are peaceful. Our community hardly works in formal companies and institutions and we wonder why they are saying we are taking their employment spaces. All the accusations are false,” said a Mr Shukri, chairperson of the Somalia association in South Africa in an interview with Eye Witness Radio.
Meanwhile authorities, including Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa and Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba have condemned the action, arguing that rights of foreigners must be protected.
In recent weeks, shops owned by foreigners in Pretoria West and Rosettenville, Johannesburg, have been torched and looted.
The Rosettenville attack focused on Nigerians.
As of Friday evening, the Malawi High Commission in South Africa had not received reports of cases involving Malawians. Efforts to get a comment from the Malawi envoy Chrissie Kaponda proved futile as she said she was in a meeting. Later, she neither picked our calls nor responded to our text messages.