Army alert for attacks

DEFENCE Minister Lindiwe Sisulu yesterday gave the SA National Defence Force the instruction to deploy immediately to protect the lives of immigrants from African countries.

Sisulu flew to Cape Town yesterday morning with Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa following a disturbing incident in Western Cape on Sunday night.

Hundreds of foreign nationals fled their homes in Nyanga, Philippi East and Khayelitsha to seek refuge at police stations after fears of xenophobic attacks. They fled to stations in Franschhoek, Mbekweni and Wellington.

Somali-born shopkeepers have been attacked in Gugulethu and Khayelitsha since last week, while at the Paarl tunnel outside Cape Town hundreds of Zimbabweans spent last week trying to get lifts to Johannesburg.

Although Sisulu and Mthethwa announced that they were sending in the army and police to quell the attacks, it seemed that they still did not believe that xenophobia was the cause.

Sisulu blamed the attacks on "opportunistic criminals".

"Opportunistic criminals must know that we will deal with them harshly, there is no way we will allow them to spread fear and crime, we are working very hard to find and prosecute them."

But Sowetan saw hundreds of Khayelitsha residents looting five Somali-owned shops in Site B yesterday. At the Du Noon informal settlement, soldiers were already patrolling last weekend even before Sisulu gave the official instruction. They chased away Sowetan's photographer when he tried to take photos of them.

Meanwhile, local activists say they are working very hard to stop any attacks. About 40 members of the Diggz Youth Group handed out pamphlets against xenophobia at Imizamo Yethu informal settlement at theweekend.

Diggz Youth Group spokesperson Karriem Matthews said: "Locals and foreign nationals came together to form a solidarity forum. They have divided the township into nine blocks and are having meetings in all blocks every day so that the community can protect the immigrants."

Matthews cautioned that government must deliver services quickly. "The unemployed youth in particular are joining these groups who are xenophobic. The government and private sector are not doing anything to help the youth, there is no programme in place and it is just a matter of time before another attack breaks out," he warned.

In Johannesburg, the Freedom Front Plus allegedly issued death threats to Johannesburg activists who handed out "anti-Afrophobia" pamphlets at busy taxi ranks last weekend.

Zandi Radebe from the Black Consciousness Movement's Blackwash said: "They say I must watch my back. They say since Blackwash's pamphlets discourage black-on-black violence, who are we suggesting the attacks must be directed at? Then they told me that I will be responsible if anything happens to whites.

"I also got calls from black brothers also saying I should watch my back. I want to call on everyone trying to prevent xenophobia not to be intimidated."