South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is taking a firm stance against “anti-foreigner” attacks in the country, vowing to “find ways of stopping them.”
“I’m convening the ministers in the security cluster today to make sure that we keep a close eye on these acts of wanton violence and find ways of stopping them,” Ramaphosa said on Twitter. “There can be no justification for any South African to attack people from other countries.”
On Tuesday, 189 people were arrested in Alexandra, just one day after alleged looters went on a rampage, apparently targeting businesses owned by foreigners.
Police also reportedly fired rubber bullets at a crowd of some 50 people, who were throwing rocks.
About two dozen shops, owned by foreigners and locals alike were either vandalized or looted, Al Jazeera reports.
One Bangladeshi shop owner in Alexandra told AFP news agency that the attackers “burnt everything” in his store that he said gets attacked every three to six months.
“All my money is gone. If the [South African] government pays for my plane ticket, I will go back to Bangladesh,” the shop owner, Kamrul Hasan, added.
“This is not a criminal attack. This is a [xenophobic] attack,” he said.
Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama reacted strongly to the “sickening and depressing” news of the damage done to shops owned by Nigerian nationals.
“Received sickening and depressing news of continued burning and looting of Nigerian shops and premises in #SouthAfrica by mindless criminals with ineffective police protection,” he said on Twitter. “Enough is enough. We will take definitive measures.”
Despite cries of xenophobia, police spokesperson Lungelo Dlamini said that there was no clear motive behind Tuesday’s riots.
“They are just criminals who are looting and taking advantage of the situation,” he told Al Jazeera.
South African Police Minister Bheki Cele also brushed off accusations of xenophobia.
“Xenophobia is just an excuse that is being used by people to commit criminal acts,” he told reporters on Monday afternoon, according to Al Jazeera. “It is not xenophobia, but pure criminality.”