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S.African president condemns xenophobic attacks

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday condemned attacks on foreign-owned shops that have left three people dead and led hundreds of Malawians to flee their homes.

A statement from his office said he “condemned violence against foreign nationals in South Africa” and called on police to identify those responsible and bring them to justice.

“African development depends on the increased movement of people, goods and services between different countries for all of us to benefit,” Ramaphosa added.

“We will not allow criminals to set back these processes.”

On Monday, Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and Police Minister Bheki Cele held talks with diplomats of African countries to discuss last week’s violence.

Three people died last on Monday last week when protests targetting foreign-owned shops in the southeastern KwaZulu-Natal province degenerated.

Police said the owner of one shop attacked and looted by a mob opened fire, killing two people. A third person, a woman, died after she fell off a roof while fleeing protesters.

Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Luwellyn Landers said the incidents started off as a criminal event “and eventually ended up being xenophobic because 300 Malawians were displaced as a consequence.

If you ask me was it xenophobic or criminality, its both.”

But this latest unrest has raised fears of a resurgence of previous deadly xenophobic attacks.

Attacks against foreigners and foreign-run businesses have erupted regularly in recent years in South Africa – the most developed sub-Saharan economy.

In the context of chronic unemployment and the limited progress made by many poor black South Africans since white-minority rule ended in 1994, immigrants are often the focus of anger.

The country is host to millions of foreign nationals. Many of them are economic or political refugees from across Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia and Zimbabwe.

An unknown number of them are undocumented.

Migration has become a election campaign issue ahead of the May 8 national vote.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance, which has accused the ruling ANC party of failing to protect the country’s borders, on Monday also condemned “these senseless xenophobic attacks in the strongest possible terms”.