Xenophobic attacks have escalated in South Africa with many shops and vehicles belonging to foreigners, especially Nigerians, looted or set on fire.
Nigerians who fled into the woods shared their experiences on the social media and described a chaotic situation where South African nationals asked them to speak Zulu or be killed.
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On Monday, police fired teargas, rubber bullets and stun grenades to stop the violence.
However, the country’s police chief Bheki Cele described the looting and attacks on foreign nationals as criminality rather than xenophobia.
Cele told reporters in the Central Business District where much of the unrest has been taking place that xenophobia was being used as an excuse by criminals.
But the Nigerian minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said Nigerian shops had been targeted.
The latest unrest began on Sunday when a building in Johannesburg’s Central Business District caught fire and collapsed, killing at least three people.
On Monday, the violence was said to have spread to nearby area of Jeppestown before reaching other areas in the city such as Denver, Malvern and Tembisa, according to the BBC.
The BBC said hundreds of people marched through the Central Business District, where video shared on social media showed shops being looted and rows of burnt-out cars. At least 41 people were arrested after the march, according to police.
BBC News’ Milton Nkosi in Johannesburg provided an explanation of the latest violence:
He said: “The looting of foreign-owned shops in South Africa is becoming a daily occurrence and there is no sign of stopping”.
“Many people have been asking why black South Africans are attacking other Africans. There is no easy answer to this, but it does seem like a combination of straightforward thuggery and xenophobia.
“It is important to see these events within its context. South Africa is home to many immigrants who never get attacked and there are many South Africans who get caught up in the senseless violence as well.
“But the unrest here is largely an immigration issue. The unemployment rate in South Africa is nearly 28 percent and this places huge pressure on the lower end of the social ladder”.
News reports said ver 50 shops belonging to foreign nationals were set on fire.
The attacks occurred late on Sunday saw a group of violent locals suspected to be Zulu hostel dwellers besiege Jules Street in Malvern, Johannesburg and looting and burning businesses, reports said.
The President of the Nigerian Union South Africa, Adetola Olubajo, said in a statement on Monday that the mob also looted several shops that were around the vicinity suspected to be owned by foreign nationals before they were later dispersed by police.
He said: “Fresh attacks, looting, and burning of properties belonging to foreign nationals started yesterday morning in Jeppestown area Johannesburg when a building was set alight by an angry mob.
“Three people were killed while another person is receiving treatment for inhaling the smoke.
“Over 50 shops and businesses were destroyed, looted and burnt down over the night.
“Also, some businesses owned by foreign nationals were looted in Germiston yesterday evening.
“An Internet café and computer accessories business owned by a Nigerian was among looted shops in Germiston.
“A car sales business owned by a Nigerian is also among several businesses set alight over the night.
“Though the police said that many people have been arrested in connection with the unnecessary attacks, the looting and burning of foreign own businesses continued till this morning.”