MORE THAN 1,500 MALAWIANS EVACUATED SINCE SOUTH AFRICA VIOLENCE

ANC Daily News Briefing/Sapa/AFP, 10 July 2008

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More than half of the 3,000 Malawian nationals displaced by the violence that targeted foreigners in South Africa in May have since been evacuated, a senior official said Thursday. "So far we have evacuated 1,655 Malawians. Although the number of returnees has dropped, the programme to evacuate more Malawians is still on," Malawian information ministry official Edson Mwanvani told AFP. Up to 3,000 Malawians registered to return home after the attacks on immigrants, mainly in Johannesburg, in which over 60 people were killed and tens of thousands displaced. At the height of the evacuation, some 320 people returned home everyday in buses hired by the Malawi government. A Malawian citizen was shot dead in Johannesburg at the onset of the attacks which saw South Africans driving foreigners out of townships, accusing immigrants of stealing their jobs and blaming them for high crime rates. Mobs destroyed homes and looted immigrant-owned shops, while some victims were burned alive. At least 21 of the 62 people killed were South African, though officials have not provided an explanation for why they would have been targeted. It was not clear whether any were South Africans of foreign origin. Tens of thousands of people were displaced in the violence, first fleeing to shelters and police stations, then to camps set up by the government. Tens of thousands of immigrants from Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe have flocked to South Africa in recent years seeking employment.