Cape Times, 14 May 2008

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Although xenophobic attacks were not widespread enough to be called a "crisis", the intelligence authorities are keeping an eye on the situation, Safety and Security Minster Charles Nqakula said yesterday. And Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula spec-ulated in Parliament that a "third force" could be behind the recent escalation in attacks on foreigners. "It is a problem but for it to be a crisis it would have to be happening right across the country, and this is not happening," Nqakula said. Speaking against the backdrop of attacks on foreigners in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, Nqakula said there were only "certain hot spots" where such attacks had occurred. He revealed that while xenophobia was regarded as a "social" problem, it was being covered by intelligence agents in their reports. Nqakula said the problem was "not essentially a police matter" but one in which communities needed to understand the "political necessity" to accommodate people from other countries. As a "social crime" the problem was "very, very difficult" to police. He said immigrants came to South Africa for various reasons. Some of those who had been attacked had been in the country legally. "We are trying to create an environment where we do not have this situation where many people are streaming into South Africa because of conditions in their own countries ... that included violence against people in those countries," he said, in an apparent reference to the situation in Zimbabwe. Nqakula's comments came amid a growing outcry over the wave of anti-foreigner violence that has claimed a number of lives in parts of the country, most recently in Gauteng. Accused of "stealing jobs" from South Africans, foreigners have also been attacked in Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria, and in townships around Cape Town and in the southern Cape, where Somali shopkeepers have often been the target. Briefing the National Assembly's home affairs committee yesterday, Mapisa-Nqakula said it was strange that people who had lived together for many years were suddenly at one another's throats. "There could be people who are stoking the fires," she said. Political parties across the spectrum expressed alarm at the outbreak of violence in Alexandra, in which several people - mostly Zimbabweans - were killed and more than 40 injured. Expressing "grave concern" over the attacks, the ANC repeated its call to "all state institutions and security agencies to apply the country's immigration laws in a consistent and even-handed manner, with due regard to the country's constitution and its international commitments". The Democratic Alliance, African Christian Democratic Party and the Pan Africanist Congress also spoke out against the violence in the National Assembly yesterday and called for government intervention.