The Witness/Sapa, 16 May 2008

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Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma yesterday warned that the escalating attacks against foreign nationals could plunge the country into a civil war. "If these attacks continue it will only be a matter of time before we start attacking the Swazis, the Batswana and the Basothos," she told an ANC Women’s League conference in Durban. Dlamini-Zuma called on all South Africans to speak out and act in unison against the attacks. "As people who fought against apartheid we cannot be seen to be to be practising discrimination. We must not give these criminals any space in our communities and families." Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula said those responsible will be "severely dealt with". Institutions across South Africa yesterday condemned the xenophobic attacks on residents in Alexandra and Diepsloot. The ANC said its leaders will address public meetings across Gauteng this weekend to try to stop criminals using discrimination, hatred and fear to destabilise communities. People against Suffering Suppression, Oppression and Poverty said many immigrants were undocumented or illegal because the government was not processing refugee applications fast enough. Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) said 32 foreign nationals were attacked in Olifantsfontein on the East Rand, robbed and told to leave South Africa by their attackers. "The police … proceeded to arrest these victims as they were unable to produce any documentation as to their lawful status in South Africa," LHR said in a statement. The victims have been moved to Lindela where they are being detained pending deportation, it added. Yesterday, the SA National Civic Organisation in Gauteng urged the police to arrest all criminals hiding behind xenophobia. "They belong behind bars and the sooner they go, the better," said spokesman Lucas Qakazahe.