c.2008 Bloomberg News
May 20 (Bloomberg)South African police arrested 40 people and rushed reinforcements into Johannesburg after nine days of anti-immigrant rioting left 22 people dead.
"There have been reports of housebreaking, burglary and one rape," police spokesman Govindsamy Mariemuthoo said in an interview today. The violence was mostly in the East Rand district, which lies east of South Africa's biggest city. No new deaths were reported overnight, he said.
South Africa has as many as 3 million illegal Zimbabwean immigrants and is also host to others from African countries, including Mozambique and Somalia. An increasing number of Zimbabweans have entered South Africa, driven south by a decade of economic recession, political violence and the world's highest inflation rate, 355,000 percent, according to the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper.
The disturbances began May 11 in Alexandra, a township near the northern Johannesburg business hub of Sandton.
Four platoons of police from the National Intervention Unit will reinforce colleagues in Johannesburg, the Star newspaper said, citing Sally de Beer, a police spokeswoman. One platoon will come from the Western Cape Province, one from KwaZulu-Natal and two from Pretoria, the newspaper said.
De Beer wasn't immediately available when called on her mobile phone.
Johannesburg's Times newspaper pictured a crowd of people attacking foreigners in Kya Sands, in the north of the city, being dispersed by a low flying police helicopter.
A man was killed in the Actonville area of Johannesburg when his house was set ablaze by a mob that accused him of hiring foreigners for his business, the Johannesburg-based Sowetan newspaper reported. A resident of Soweto, arrested yesterday, said he had been paid to kill foreigners in the riots, the same newspaper said, adding that police couldn't give further details.
South Africa, with a population of 48.5 million, has a shortfall of 2.4 million houses and one in four people don't have a job.
"I call upon those behind these shameful and criminal acts to stop. Nothing can justify it," South African President Thabo Mbeki said in a statement published by the South African Press Association PR news wire late yesterday. "I am confident that the police will soon make significant breakthroughs in getting to the roots of this anarchy."