- Chaos and terror reigned in the streets of Cape Town last night, with hundreds of panicking foreigners scuttling about for safety, as the xenophobic attacks that have engulfed some of the main South African cities extend to the Mother city.
A number of businesses owned mainly by Somalis were attacked and looted while their owners were forced to flee for their lives. Some of the shops were actually set alight and the storekeepers were reduced to mere spectators as they witnessed their hard earned properties burn to the ground.
Mobs of rioters armed with pangas, knives, batons and homemade weapons were seen causing havoc in the streets, chasing the terrified immigrants away. Cases of the ceaseless violence were reported in the settlements of Due Noon in Milnerton, Ocean View, Joe Slovo in Langa and later on Witlokasie in Knysna.
The presence of armed police officers in their armoured vehicles appeared to do little to deter the aggressions from spilling way out of control. Some of fleeing Somalis, including other nationals from other African countries were seen jumping into police vans to escape, as the terror mounted.
Police stations, churches and community halls in the violence stricken areas are now crammed with terrified immigrants who cannot wait to evacuate the country should matters aggravate.
Premier Ebrahim Rasool of the South African province Western Cape has warned that the province would not stand any xenophobic attacks. He noted that he would ensure that police stop all criminal acts in their tracks and to normalise the situation again in Cape Town.
Mr Rasool said this opening a two-day workshop in Cape Town yesterday, to mark Africa Day. He explained that the police and the intelligence agencies had already briefed the Western Cape cabinet on their preparedness to squash the violence, before spreading to other parts of the province.
ANC Western Cape secretary Mcebisi Skwatsha said he was in Knysna yesterday to prevent the anti-foreigner violence. "But the intervention, in the form of an emergency community meeting, came too late to stop the burning and looting of five Somali-owned shops by a mob of xenophobic thugs," Mr Skwatsha said, after the meeting held to address the matter.
The attacks are without doubt going to impact negatively on the booming tourism industry in Cape Town, which is the main hub of the trade in South Africa. Especially African tourists – making up more than half of arrivals to South Africa – have already started cancelling trips to the city. The violence is said to be a result of South Africans who do not want foreigners in their land anymore; an outlook especially hurting the tourism industry.
One can only guess the effect they are going to have on the entire country's weakening economy, with the price of petrol, food and other commodities currently at its peak. With the foreigners' businesses closed down, some actually burnt to ashes and a solution to the situation not likely to be attained anytime soon, the future truly looks drab for the entire country's economy, analsysts note.
The xenophobic violence has to date claimed over 40 lives since it started more than a week ago in the rich city of Johannesburg. Police report that more than 500 people have been arrested in connection with the spiralling attacks.
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