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Residents of Port Shepstone on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast have expressed concern after a fight broke out between Chinese and Pakistani nationals at the weekend.
Five people were rushed to the local hospital following a confrontation between the groups over the alleged scratching of a car.
Police were called in to separate the groups, who are all tenants at the Ayesha Flats Complex in Albersville Road.
It is alleged that two weeks ago the paintwork on a Mercedes Benz belonging to a Pakistani tenant had been scratched.
Resident Bheka Phewa said people are scared.
"It was a real battle. Some people had knives and others had guns. Women and children on their way to church had to run for their lives," Phewa said.
He said local people were upset because they say foreign nationals are here on business "not to engage in war".
Phewa said: "Their actions pose a huge challenge for our authorities, especially our government, because these people endanger our lives.
"We hope that the police presence will bring stability. This action is giving our town a bad name because our main business is tourism."
Police spokesman Vincent Pandarum said a scuffle broke out when an armed Pakistani man allegedly threatened a Chinese man.
"The Pakistani became upset when he noticed a Chinese tenant's car parked in his space. He threatened the Chinese man with a gun. A scuffle broke out and tenants from both groups joined in. There were 20 Pakistanis and five Chinese involved in the fracas," he said.
He said three Pakistanis and two Chinese were taken to hospital.
"Four of them suffered stab wounds and were discharged after treatment. The fifth man, a Chinese, has been admitted in a serious condition with apparent spinal injuries," Pandarum said.
Police are investigating three cases of assault, common assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and attempted murder.
The identities of the injured and those allegedly involved in the fight are being withheld for security and investigative reasons.
Police recovered two rounds of ammunition at the scene. A man is being held for attempted murder. He is expected to appear in court this week.