Anti-migrant protests in South Africa turn violent

Clashes broke out as foreign workers and anti-migrant protesters came face-to-face in the South African capital Pretoria as tensions between unemployed locals and non-national shopkeepers boiled over.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

FILE PHOTO: A vigilante mob attacks a Nigerian man outside a church in Pretoria, South Africa, February 18, 2017.

Updated Feb 25, 2017

South African police fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse rival marches in Pretoria on Friday as protests against migrant workers turned violent.

Protesters, who accuse migrant workers of stealing job opportunities, erected barricades and burned tyres in the Atteridgeville area, west of Pretoria. Others reportedly looted shops that are owned by foreign nationals.

Migrant workers also came out to confront the protesters, forcing police to form a barrier to prevent clashes between the two crowds. Some demonstrators came armed with sticks and rocks.

TRT World spoke to Tsidi Bishop who has this update on the situation in the South African capital.

Rising tensions

The marches follow the looting this week of at least 20 small businesses believed to belong to Nigerian and Pakistani immigrants.

Locals accuse foreign nationals of spreading crime, while migrant workers say they are only defending themselves after being targeted in xenophobic attacks.

Acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane announced on Friday that 156 people were arrested in the past 24 hours, but it was unclear how many of those in custody were South Africans and how many foreigners.

President Jacob Zuma condemned acts of violence between citizens and non-nationals, his office said in a statement on Friday. Zuma appealed to citizens not to blame all crime on non-nationals.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on Thursday acknowledged violence had flared up against foreigners this year, adding that "unfortunately, xenophobic violence is not new in South Africa."

Meanwhile in Nigeria, Nigerians have been protesting in support of migrant workers in South Africa. TRT World spoke to Sophia Adengo about the counter protests in Abuja. 

TRTWorld, Reuters