Business Day, 1 April 2008

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A campaign to stem attacks on foreigners was launched at the weekend in Atteridgeville, Tshwane, where two foreigners were killed last week, apparently by fellow residents of informal settlements. However, the “Stop Xenophobia Campaign”, came amid reports that anti-foreigner violence had now spilled over into the Diepsloot informal settlement, northwest of Johannesburg, where at least two people were killed on Saturday. It was thought they were foreigners, but police said it was too early to tell their nationalities. A strong police contingent patrolled the streets of Diepsloot throughout the night to try to prevent further clashes between South African residents and foreigners, Talk Radio 702 reported. A third man died after he was doused with petrol and set alight. But authorities said this incident was a case of mob justice and had nothing to do with the xenophobic violence that swept through the settlement at the weekend. Like other incidents of xenophobia across Tshwane, it was unclear exactly what sparked the violence. In Atteridgeville, foreigners were hounded out of their shacks before Easter. Over two weeks of instability, two Zimbabweans were killed, forcing another 400 immigrants, including Malawians, Mozambicans and Zambians, to seek shelter at a school near the local police station. But after complaints from residents, the remaining 150 families had been moved to another shelter in the Pretoria inner city. The anti-xenophobia campaign — a two-day door-to-door initiative — was organised by the City of Tshwane and the home affairs department. Its aim was to get locals to accept legal immigrants and understand that other countries played host to South Africans during the anti-apartheid struggle. However, as the campaign got under way, Tshwane mayor Gwen Ramokgopa — herself a former resident of Atteridgeville — was booed when she addressed locals. Police were holding 12 suspects in connection with the Atteridgeville violence, which officials said was also fuelled by a criminal element.