Migrants flee South Africa as wave of violence spreads to Cape Town

The wave of xenophobic violence that has convulsed South Africa reached Cape Town yesterday with mobs looting shops and immigrants forced to flee a squatter camp which came under attack on the outskirts of the city.

At the same time neighbouring Mozambique declared a state of emergency to help its citizens fleeing the attacks, warning the "exodus will worsen" as thousands are still housed in makeshift camps awaiting transport back home.

At least 42 people have been killed and more than 25,000 foreigners displaced since attacks began in Johannesburg earlier this month by South Africans who blame them for crime and unemployment. The violence which has included shootings, lynchings and people doused with petrol and burnt alive has badly tarnished the rainbow nation image the country has treasured since the end of apartheid.

With violence now reaching the city central to South Africa's valuable tourism industry the government sought to deflect mounting criticism of its handling of the crisis by blaming right-wingers linked to the former apartheid government for fanning xenophobic violence.

Manala Manzini, head of the National Intelligence Agency, said people linked to former apartheid security forces were stoking the violence.

"Definitely there is a third hand involved. There is a deliberate effort, orchestrated, well-planned," he told Reuters. "We have information to the effect that elements who were involved in the pre-1994 election violence are in fact the same elements that have re-started contacts with people they used in the past."

The violence in Cape Town was not on the scale of the rampages in Johannesburg with gangs accused of using the crisis as cover for opportunistic looting. Billy Jones, Cape Town police spokesman, said about 400 people had sought shelter on a racetrack after 12 people were injured in overnight attacks on an informal settlement in Cape Town.

"The area is quiet now but we are maintaining a visible presence," he said, adding that many of the displaced had been moved to various community centres and town halls.

Somali-owned shops were also looted in Knysna, a resort town on the south coast.

Predicting an "exodus", Mozambique's Foreign Minister, Oldemiro Baloi, said the state of emergency had been declared on Thursday as thousands of Mozambicans flooded across the border.

Mr Baloi said about 10,000 people had returned on their own while 620 people arrived on Thursday in buses arranged by the consulate in Johannesburg.

With the emergency declaration, the Mozambican government can release money and aid to help those returning. They are being transported from the capital to their home towns and given clothes, food, blankets and basic domestic implements so they can start again.

South Africa's President, Thabo Mbeki, has mobilised the South African National Defence Force for the first time since the end of apartheid in 1994. Soldiers were used in a dawn swoop on three central Johannesburg worker hostels whose residents allegedly were involved in inciting violence. A total of 28 people were arrested.

The crisis has confronted many of South Africa's estimated five million immigrants with some appalling dilemmas. About three million Zimbabweans, fleeing the collapse of their own country's economy, are generally better educated than many poor South Africans, who accuse migrants from neighbouring countries of stealing scarce jobs. Few of the Zimbabweans could expect to find any work were they to return to their own country – currently beset by a violent political campaign by its own government. And millions of Zimbabweans who have remained north of the Limpopo river rely on their relatives in South Africa to send them the money needed to survive.

Voices of the victims

Justin

"When I go out I have to be very cautious, not stay anywhere a long time. I pay attention to what is happening around me. I don't talk to anyone and not look at them in case they know I am Zimbabwean and want to attack me.

"We have talked about leaving because of the killings. It is very worrying but for the moment we are staying. You have to understand what is happening back home. Things are bad there. We have no option but to stay. I resigned from my job in Zimbabwe to come here to start a new life. We have parents back home to take care of. If I went back, I could not get a job with the government for two years and I would be unemployed and destitute. I don't want to be unemployed – but if the worst comes to the worst here, our lives are more important and we would go. We won't be killed in Zimbabwe."

Thabiso

"I was awoken by the sound of screaming on Monday. A shack belonging to a Mozambican immigrant had been set alight. He tried to escape the fire. But the residents were armed with all sorts of weapons and AK-47 rifles. They shouted, 'Umbambe engabaleki', which means 'Don't let him run away' in Zulu. The mob caught up with him, doused him with petrol and threw him back into the burning shack. I have never seen such barbarism. I cannot stand this kind of life.

"Some other Zimbabweans and I ran to take shelter in a shack owned by a South African woman. Other residents, who had seen us taking refuge followed, shouting, 'Where are the foreigners?' They were armed with sticks and knives. The owner told the attackers we were South Africans. What saved us was that we could speak Zulu."

Nyiko

Nyiko Ngobeni of Chikwalakwala, Mozambique, told the CAJ news agency how he witnessed the killing of three of his best friends

"I am experiencing nightmares every day now. Each time I close my eyes, I see my three friends being butchered in cold blood. The four of us were asleep when some thugs started attacking us. I survived through faking death. I smeared my friend's blood on my chest, mouth and nose, to fool them. They only left after being convinced we were all dead. I'm not going to risk my life again. South Africa was good for us, but I will never set my foot in Johannesburg again. I now hate South Africans."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'