South African police on Thursday vowed to quell a wave of anti-immigrant violence after attacks spread to Johannesburg overnight and fears grew that the country’s economic troubles could spark widespread unrest.
At least six people have been killed in the last two weeks in attacks in the city of Durban targeting shops and homes owned by Somalis, Ethiopians, Malawians and other immigrants.
Earlier this year, xenophobic violence also erupted in Soweto, near Johannesburg, as frustration deepens over lack of opportunities for many young blacks born since the end of apartheid in 1994.
South Africa’s economic growth was just 1.5 percent last year and unemployment is at around 25 percent — soaring to over 50 percent among the young.
“There are tensions in various parts of the country between some locals and foreign nationals (but) lawlessness will not be tolerated,” National Police Commissioner General Riah Phiyega said in a statement.
“Overnight, there was a flare-up of violent attacks and looting in Jeppestown, Johannesburg,” the statement added.
“Six male suspects have been arrested for public violence and housebreaking. The suspects allegedly broke into foreigners’ shops.”
Police, who also reported tensions in Pietermaritzburg city, called for community leaders to help restore calm and added that false rumours of attacks were increasing fear.