A WAVE of vicious xenophobic attacks in South Africa has forced Malawi to repatriate its nationals out of fear for their safety.
In the last week alone, at least five foreigners, including a 14-year-old boy, have been killed in attacks in South Africa’s coastal city of Durban, reports BBC Africa.
According to a Malawian government spokesman, the first wave of victims are scheduled to be repatriated from South Africa on Sunday (April 19).
“According to latest official reports from the offices of the Malawian consulate and High Commission to South Africa, as of Tuesday, about 420 Malawians were reported to have been affected and were in temporary camps in South Africa,” Information Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa told a press conference in the commercial capital, Blantyre, yesterday (April 15).
Some foreign-owned shops in the main city Johannesburg have shut amid fears that the violence could spread.
In total, the violence has left about 5,000 foreigners homeless in Durban, the main city in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, local media reports.
Yesterday, the violence spread to the province’s second city, Pietermaritzburg, where foreign-owned shops were looted.
Zimbabwe has also condemned the attacks, blamed on locals who accused foreigners of taking their jobs.
Tens of thousands of foreigners, mostly from other African states and Asia, have moved to South Africa since white-minority rule ended in 1994.
Malawi is the only country that has so far decided to repatriate its citizens.
The government has ordered police to step up patrols to prevent the violence from escalating.
The governing African National Congress (ANC) said in a statement that South Africans should “hang our heads in shame in the face of these misguided and misplaced assaults”.
Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini has been accused of fuelling xenophobia after he was widely quoted as saying at a meeting last month that foreigners should “please go back to their countries”.
He denied being xenophobic and claimed he had been mistranslated.
According to government officials, there are no confirmed deaths involving Malawians, however witness accounts tell a different and chilling story.
“I witnessed a friend of mine, Roderick Masanja, from Mangochi, being doused by petrol and being set alight in Durban on Tuesday,” said a member of the public identifying himself as Samuel Idrissa.
Idrissa said he was based in Johannesburg, but had travelled to the port city to try to rescue his friends.
Nearly 50 people have been arrested and the Malawian embassy in Pretoria has started processing temporary travel documents for its nationals.
The government has condemned the violence, with President Jacob Zuma sending a team of officials to assess the situation.
Credit – voice-online.co.uk