South African mobs targeting immigrants

Fears are rising that South Africa could face a new wave of xenophobic violence as mock eviction notices are issued to foreign traders in townships around Johannesburg, the scenes of bloody violence in May 2008.

In one settlement, Pakistani and Somali shopkeepers have closed and are staying indoors. Last week, more than 50 Somali-owned shops in Port Elizabeth were burned and looted.

On Friday, human rights groups marched through the centre of Johannesburg to protest against attacks on foreigners, mostly Somalis and Zimbabweans.

Now a graphic video has emerged showing a mob beating to death an innocent Zimbabwean man. The shocking images will increase the pressure on President Jacob Zuma to act.

Taken on a mobile phone by freelance reporter Golden Mtika in the township of Diepsloot and given to the New York Times, they show 26-year-old Farai Kujirichita being set upon by a crowd of men, women and children who wrongly believed he was a criminal.

Eleven hours earlier, in a different part of the sprawling settlement, another Zimbabwean was killed by a different mob.

“Just being a Zimbabwean is a crime here, you do not have to be a criminal or to be a thief,” said Joseph Makota, a 32-year-old driver whose home is near where Kujirichita lived with his three brothers after fleeing Zimbabwe in 2003.

Katlego Matheta, a witness to the murder, said mob justice was normal in Diepsloot. “It’s simple to kill a person here. They are not scared to kill here.”

Estimates of legal and illegal immigrants range from three million to seven million. In townships like Diepsloot, where 150,000 people live, unemployment is around 50 per cent and there are no police stations.

In May 2008, South Africa’s image took a knock as xenophobic violence ignited but the security crackdown during the run-up to the hugely successful football World Cup kept attacks on foreigners down.

Last week the United Nations human rights council discussed recommendations from UN special rapporteur Jorge Bustamante that South Africa draw up new anti-hate crime legislation.

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