S. Africa, Nigeria step up security - GulfToday

S. Africa, Nigeria step up security


Policemen shoot tear gas to disperse protesters in Abuja on Wednesday. Agence France-Presse

South Africa and Nigeria stepped up security on Wednesday after deadly attacks on foreign-owned stores in Johannesburg triggered reprisals against South African businesses in Nigerian cities.

Despite a downturn in violence, tensions rose on the diplomatic front, as Nigeria declared it would boycott a top business forum and South Africa’s neighbours urged Pretoria to clamp down on xenophobia.

The death toll rose to seven after two charred bodies were found in a store in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township, police said. Nearly 300 people have been arrested.

The centre of Johannesburg and Alexandra remained calm, however, as police boosted patrols following two days of looting, AFP reporters saw.

Shops cautiously re-opened again as some residents sifted around in wrecked stores, rummaging for food and anything usable.

President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterated his condemnation of the violence, but acknowledged: “We face a huge challenge.”

“A number of people (are) taking the law into their own hands,” he said in Cape Town, ahead of a three-day meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) due to be attended by more than a dozen African leaders.

“Taking action against people of other countries is not right,” he said. “South Africa is home for all. We are not the only country that has become home for people fleeing.”

Dozens of shops have been destroyed in Johannesburg and nearby Pretoria, the country’s political capital, since the violence began to flare on Sunday. Trucks suspected of being driven by foreigners have also been torched in the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal.

South Africa is a major destination for economic migrants from neighbouring Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. But others come from much farther away, including South Asia and Nigeria.

In Nigeria, police said security had been strengthened around South African businesses after apparent reprisal attacks in several cities against stores operated by the supermarket chain Shoprite, the telecoms giant MTN and other firms.

But in the capital Abuja, a crowd of more than 100 demonstrators clashed with police outside a shopping mall which has a Shoprite store.

Agence France-Presse

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