BuaNews, 20 May 2008

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Government is to deploy specialised units to those areas in Johannesburg where attacks on foreign nationals have erupted, Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula said on Tuesday. The minister visited the Primrose Police Station on the East Rand along with Minister for Correctional Services Ngconde Balfour, Gauteng MEC for Community Safety Firoz Cachalia, Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Acting National Police Commissioner Tim Williams, Minister for Intelligence Services Ronnie Kasrils, Deputy Minister for Safety and Security, Susan Shabangu and Gauteng Health MEC Brian Hlongwa among others. Addressing a 3 000-strong crowd of displaced immigrants, the minister said police would deal with xenophobia-related attacks in a tough and precise manner. "We are going hard on the situation," Mr Nqakula said, adding that no person, regardless of were they come from should be violated. "We will put every measure in place to protect you. Our law enforcement agencies are in place. We will make sure that the violence does not spread to other areas." The foreigners and some South Africans were evicted from the shacks and houses by angry mobs after violence broke out in Alexandra more than a week ago. The have since been camping outside police stations, community halls and shelters. The violence has left 23 dead, hundreds injured and 10 000 more displaced. Local residents are blaming foreigners for taking the few available jobs and perpetrating crime. Michael Atombo from Zimbabwe, who has been in South Africa for two years, told BuaNews that since the attacks started he has been without shelter. "I came to South Africa to make an honest living, but all that I have worked for over the years has now been destroyed." He said he was dependant on neighbours and churches in the area for food, but that it was not enough. Mr Atombo added that he was too scared to walk more than 2km from the police station because of the dangerous situation in the area. Minister Nqakula said the number of police would be increased and there would be visible police patrols in areas hit by attacks. The Home Affairs Minister said the attacks were damaging South Africa's image. "The images have damaged South Africa's image and reputation, taking into account what we have achieved since 1994," said Ms Maphisa-Nqakula. What South Africans fail to understand is that at one stage we were once immigrants in their countries during the apartheid times," she said, adding that now we had to help them in their time of desperation. The minister announced that an urgent meeting with representatives of the displaced nationals from their countries, government officials and the Department of Foreign Affairs is scheduled to discuss how best to accommodate the nationals on Wednesday.