VIOLENCE IN ALEX ‘COULD SPREAD’

Business Day, 15 May 2008

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In the strongest statement yet on xenophobia-related violence in Alexandra, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) have warned the government that the violence could spread to other parts of the country. Speaking at an exhibition in honour of former SACP leader Chris Hani, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and SACP president Blade Nzi- mande condemned the attacks. This week’s violence in Alexandra has resulted in about 1000 foreigners taking refuge in a local police station to avoid being subjected to more attacks. Earlier in the week it was reported that hundreds of locals armed with pangas, sticks and golf clubs combed the township house by house, searching for foreigners. Vavi refused to give credence to a view that the current violence was a result of poor service delivery and unemployment. “Where does the rape of women, stealing TVs , confiscating someone’s passport fit it? This is not about unemployment,” Vavi said. He called the perpetrators “rapist tsotsis” whose actions were “barbaric”, “unexplainable” and “unacceptable”. “It is not that foreigners are taking the jobs of South Africans, there are no jobs. Yes, some employers do take advantage of foreigners, they are desperate for work, vulnerable....“Local workers who have no sense of our history are taking out their frustration on poorer workers. We must not forget the contribution other African countries made during our struggle,” Vavi said. Nzimande called for a system to eradicate poverty. “We need to be aware of who is baring the brunt of the exodus (from Zimbabwe) ...it’s the poor. It’s a scramble for resources.”