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South Africa calls in army as street violence spreads

THABO Mbeki, the president of South Africa, last night approved the deployment of the army to quell violence against foreigners.

The move came in the wake of xenophobic attacks that have left 42 people dead and driven an estimated 30,000 people from their homes.

It is the first time troops have been ordered on to the streets to quell unrest since the end of apartheid.

Govindsamy Mariemuthoo, a police spokesman, said 400 arrests had been made following ten days of unrest, most of it in squatter camps that are home to impoverished South Africans and immigrants from neighbouring countries.

Mr Mbeki approved a request from the police for the involvement of the South African national defence force to stop attacks on foreigners in and around Johannesburg, a statement from his office said.

The announcement came after reports yesterday of violence spreading to Durban and the eastern province of Mpumalanga.

In Durban, a mob armed with sticks and bottles descended on a tavern where Nigerians were understood to be drinking. No-one was injured, but the attack prompted about 700 migrants to seek refuge in a church.

Phindile Radebe, a police spokeswoman, said: "A mob of about 200 were gathering on the streets carrying bottles and knobkerries (wooden clubs], attacking people. They attacked a tavern believed to be owned by Nigerians."

In Johannesburg, Mr Mariemuthoo said the situation had calmed but there were reports of scattered violence.

The victims included a Malawian, who said he was beaten up when he tried to return to his shack in a squatter settlement to gather his belongings.

The attacks began last week in the township of Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, before spreading to the city centre and across the Gauteng region. Mobs have been seeking out foreigners, many of who have sought refuge in police stations, churches and community halls.

Aid groups in the Johannesburg area said most of the violence had been targeted against Zimbabweans, Malawians, Mozambicans and other foreigners living alongside South Africans in squatter camps. There are believed to be between three and five million foreigners in South Africa, most of them Zimbabweans fleeing poverty and violence at home. They are blamed for taking jobs from locals and driving up crime rates.

'Necklace' horror returns to troubled townships

IN THE scenes of violence that have rocked South Africa over the past week, most horrifying of all has been reports of the return of "necklacing".

The savage practice is execution by forcing a rubber tyre, filled with petrol, around a victim's chest and arms, and setting it on fire.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, pictured, who once intervened to prevent a mob from necklacing a man, is among the high-profile leaders who have begged for the recent ethnic violence to stop.

During the worst days of apartheid, criminals and suspected collaborators of regime were often sentenced to this appalling death by "people's courts".

The practice became a common method of lynching during disturbances in South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s.

Nearly 20 years later, it is refugees on the run from the rule of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, or Mozambicans fleeing from violence and poverty, who are being burned alive in and around Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town.

 
 
 

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