Mail & Guardian/Sapa, 3 June 2008
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About 142 court cases linked to xenophobic violence have been opened countrywide, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said on Tuesday. Spokesperson Tlali Tlali said 102 of these were in Gauteng. Provincial police liaison officers approached on Tuesday said none of the 142 cases had reached the conviction stage yet. In Gauteng, 600 people were arrested in connection with anti-foreigner violence that erupted about three weeks ago, said spokesperson Director Govindsamy Mariemuthoo. Tlali said there were five cases in the North West, four in the Free State, 14 in KwaZulu-Natal , one in the Northern Cape, three in the Eastern Cape and 13 in the Western Cape. "Only data for the Western Cape is readily available. About 400 people have appeared before court," he said. "We are not sure about arrests or sentencing. People were charged with theft, house breaking, murder, attempted murder, arson." Tlali said the number of cases recorded so far did not necessarily represent the number of suspects or accused individuals. "Each case may have more than one accused." In the Free State, about 60 cases linked to xenophobic violence had been opened, said Superintendent Sam Makhele. "There has been no sentencing as yet as some people have only made first appearances and the cases have been remanded," he said. Eastern Cape Director Marinda Mills said she had not heard of any xenophobic cases opened yet. In the Northern Cape, only one incident of xenophobia had been reported, Senior Superintendent Elias Mbanyana said. "This occurred on May 25 where 11 people were arrested for malicious damage to property. They were arrested for stoning a shop owned by a Bangladeshi man." The case was still pending. In the North West, 155 people were arrested and 39 cases of xenophobic violence opened, said Senior Superintendent Pieter Du Plessis. "People were charged for various crimes such as assault, public violence, assault, malicious damage to property. [There was] one case [of] attempted murder," he said. "Some offenders appeared once and still have to appear, so it is still a continuing process, but to date there has been no sentencing." Western Cape police said by Friday 371 people had been arrested for xenophobic violence. "We cannot say where the figure stands now or whether anyone was sentenced," said Senior Superintendent Billy Jones. "The people were charged with mainly public violence, theft and malicious damage to property." In KwaZulu-Natal, about 64 people had been arrested for acts of xenophobia, said Superintendent Jay Naicker. He could not say how many appeared in court or what kind of charges the 64 would face. Tlali said those arrested had appeared in conventional courts of law. Asked about plans to create special courts for offences linked to xenophobic violence, he said: "Those arrested appeared before normal courts, and if they were to be re-directed to special courts it would be a decision taken by the Department of Justice."