JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's president has postponed a key ceremony after the deaths of seven people in recent attacks on immigrants in South Africa, his office said Monday.
The ceremony scheduled for next week bestows the country's highest official honor on South Africans and foreigners who have contributed to South Africa, the office of President Jacob Zuma said. The event will be postponed so South Africa can mourn the victims of anti-immigrant violence, including three South Africans and four foreigners, it said.
The annual ceremony was to be on April 27, a holiday commemorating the first all-race elections in 1994 that ended apartheid.
The anti-immigrant violence has been in specific areas of Durban and Johannesburg. Six people died in attacks since the end of March in the coastal city of Durban, where looters broke into shops owned by immigrants, police said. The violence has since subsided.
South Africa's Sunday Times newspaper published photographs of a fatal attack on a Mozambican man in Johannesburg's Alexandra township this past weekend. Authorities arrested three suspects in the killing and are searching for a fourth suspect, the South African police force said on its Twitter account.
Religious groups, trade unions and other organizations plan a march on Thursday in Johannesburg to condemn the anti-immigrant violence.
The attacks stem from a perception that immigrants, many from other African countries, are taking jobs at the expense of South Africans in a country with high unemployment. Many people from other countries have entered South Africa illegally, though the government has said a large number are working legally and contributing to economic development.
South African officials have provided food and shelter to more than 1,000 people who fled their homes and police have arrested more than 300 people, the government said. Charities have helped other fearful immigrants seeking refuge and countries including Malawi and Zimbabwe are arranging for the return of some of their citizens.
The violence recalls similar unrest in South Africa in 2008 in which 60 people died. In January this year, four people died during looting of foreign-owned shops in areas of Johannesburg.