The violence against foreign migrants living in South Africa spread to the center of Durban on Tuesday as crowds reportedly numbering thousands gathered on the streets.
Until now, most attacks have taken place in the informal settlements and townships in which the poorest South Africans live. Much of the violence in the past has been generated by a struggle for jobs and access to resources in those areas, with successful migrant business owners becoming the target by local’s citizens, as well as opportunistic criminals.
The current outbreak of attacks follows remarks by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini at the end of last month, in which he was reported to have criticised foreigners for taking over South Africa’s wealth. Local news media quoted him as saying that “when you walk in the street you cannot recognize a shop that you used to know because it has been taken over by foreigners, who then mess it up by hanging amanikiniki (shabby goods).”
Reporters said police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades in an attempt to disperse the crowds. In the first signs that migrants could begin striking back at locals who have attacked them and looted their shops, they were reported to be arming themselves with baseball bats and machetes. In one area of Durban, they were reported to have tried to erect a barricade. A reporter for Eyewitness News tweeted that a number of migrants were heard shouting: “If you want Boko Haram in this country, continue killing us. The Sowetan said Durban’s central business district was “under total lockdown” as police confronted crowds of locals and migrants.
Imagine if all the South Africans living in the UK and other countries were turned on? How would we react to that?