A series of attacks against foreigners in South Africa has ended and security forces will ensure there is no recurrence, the government said.
“The violence has stopped,” Jeff Radebe, a minister in the presidency, told reporters in Pretoria on Tuesday. “Peace and calm has returned in the communities that were affected by violent attacks. Our government is in charge. We are reaching out to reassure the global community that South Africa is open and stable for business.”
Three South Africans, a Bangladeshi, an Ethiopian, a Mozambican and a Zimbabwean died and thousands were driven from their homes since anti-immigrant violence flared in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province on March 30. In January, five people were killed in attacks in townships around Johannesburg, while about 60 died and 50,000 were displaced in several towns in 2008.
The fighting has harmed South Africa’s image abroad and embarrassed the ruling African National Congress, whose members sought refuge in other African countries during white-minority rule that ended in 1994.
Three tented camps established near the eastern port city of Durban are sheltering 4,409 people who fled their homes, the government said in a written presentation to lawmakers in Cape Town. Another 2,767 immigrants have been repatriated by bus to Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, it said.
South Africa hosts about 65,000 refugees and 295,000 asylum seekers, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. There are a total of 1.7 million foreigners in the country, census data from 2011 shows. Some poor South Africans see the immigrants as competitors for jobs and business opportunities in a country where 24 percent of the workforce is unemployed and a fifth of the population of 54 million survive on less than 335 rand ($28) a month.
The government also attributes the violence to community resentment over the fact that many foreigners are in the country illegally and some are involved in crime.
The police, with back-up from the army, conducted several raids over the past week, arresting 165 people without proper documentation, 265 for public violence and 423 people in connection with other crimes, according to Radebe.
“Government is determined to restore and maintain order within our communities,” he said. The security clampdown will “rid our country of illegal weapons, drug dens, prostitution rings and other illegal activities,” he said.
The rand gained 0.7 percent against the dollar to 11.9147 at 2:30 p.m. in Johannesburg on Tuesday, paring the decline this year to 2.9 percent.
The attacks on foreigners have raised the ire of several African countries, including Nigeria, which temporarily withdrew its acting high commissioner, Martin Cobham, and his deputy from South Africa.
South Africa’s relations with Nigeria remain “cordial” and President Jacob Zuma has been invited to the country to attend the inauguration of President-elect Muhammadu Buhari next month, Radebe said.