The Zimbabwean Embassy in South Africa has urged Zimbabweans to be on high alert and avoid moving at night as xenophobic violence continues to escalate in the neighbouring country.
Zimbabwe’s Consular-General Batiraishe Henry Mukonoweshuro said violence broke out yesterday at Jeppestown where foreign owned shops were targeted by angry mobs.
“Violence broke out at Jeppestown this morning (yesterday) and although the mobs were mainly targeting shops belonging to Somalis, Pakistanis and Ethiopians, we however, urge our people to be on high alert. For now Zimbabweans are safe because they don’t own spaza shops but we would like to warn them against travelling or moving around at night to avoid danger,” he said.
Mr Mukonoweshuro said Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) as well as the South African Police Service (Saps) have been deployed to the volatile areas.
“Our people must also always move around with their documents and they must desist from any criminal or untoward behaviour. In the event of threats they must report to the police, our embassy in Pretoria or consulates in Johannesburg and Cape Town,” he said.
Mr Mukonoweshuro urged Zimbabweans to desist from reacting to social media messages before verifying them or retaliating when attacked.The violent attacks against foreigners began more than two weeks ago after residents burnt down the houses of suspected drug lords and brothel owners in Rosettenville and Pretoria.
Newly-elected Unisa chancellor and former South African president Thabo Mbeki added his voice on Monday to those condemning the spate of attacks on immigrants in Pretoria and Johannesburg. He warned that none of the country’s problems would be solved by attacking immigrants.
Spokesperson for Gauteng Department of Public Safety Mr Michael Sun said JMPD and Saps were working together to contain xenophobic attacks or related crime.
“We have metro police officers on the ground feeding information back to the nerve centre, ready to deploy officers 24 hours a day. As part of the Gauteng Provincial Joint Operation Centre (JOC) we are also working with Saps and other law enforcement agencies to develop strategies and action plans to deal with xenophobic situations,” he said.
The South African government has set up an inter-ministerial committee on migration to tackle the new wave of xenophobic violence, which has largely been blamed on Johannesburg Mayor Mr Herman Mashaba.
Mr Mashaba came under fire for referring to foreigners as criminals and inciting violence when he told journalists last year in December that illegal immigrants got to South Africa criminally and “should be treated as such.”
The latest attacks evoked ugly memories of the deadly xenophobic attacks of 2015 which displaced hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans and other African immigrants living in South Africa, following inflammatory remarks by Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, who had called for the expulsion of foreigners.