Irin, 26 October 2000

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An attack at the weekend on Zimbabwean immigrants in the impoverished Zandspruit settlement northwest of Johannesburg has again thrown the spotlight on xenophobia in South Africa. Local residents of the impoverished Zandspruit settlement decided at the weekend to expel the hundreds of Zimbabweans living among them and destroy their homes. They accused them of involvement in violent crime and taking the jobs of South Africans. Locals with Zimbabwean friends were also targeted.

Police spokeswoman Terry-Anne Booyse said more than 20 people were arrested for public violence and would appear in court in Johannesburg on 24 October. The Zandspruit squatter camp has about 15,000 shacks and some 50,000 residents living there.

The South African Human Rights Commission and the local churches said they would mediate between South Africans and Zimbabwean living in the informal settlement. The SAHRC condemned the "racial cleansing" at Zandspruit. "Whilst we acknowledge the dire economic situation faced by many South Africans, actions such as those in Zandspruit merely fuel xenophobic hatred rather than address the core issues of economic underdevelopment", SAHRC's Phumla Mthala told IRIN on Wednesday.

The South African cabinet said on Wednesday that "concrete decisions" with regards to the role of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in Burundi to protect a transitional government, could only be finalised once the United Nations Security Council had approved the mission.

"Concrete decisions with regard to the role of the SANDF in this process will be finalised once the UN Security Council has processed relevant resolutions, and details of the mandate have been negotiated. When these decisions are finalised, they will be duly communicated to all relevant institutions as required by our constitution and conventions," a cabinet statement said.

Mbeki urges Zimbabwe to act within law

South African President Thabo Mbeki urged Zimbabwe on Wednesday (24 October) to handle Zimbabwe's land programme within the law and pledged his country's support for global efforts to bring peace and stability to the country. Responding to questions in parliament, Mbeki said the Commonwealth and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had each appointed a task group to deal with the land crisis and political instability in Zimbabwe. "Both SADC and the Commonwealth - and South Africa as part of both of those initiatives - are committed to those goals. South

"Zimbabwe must address all of the questions that have been raised, of peace and stability and an end to the conflict, of dealing with the issue of land redistribution within the context of the law and addressing these very, very serious issues concerning the economy, in a serious way. We are very interested that this government does indeed deal with those questions," Mbeki said.