Cops say reports of attacks are just rumours

DESPITE reports of looting of foreign-owned shops, the displacement and mass fleeing of refugees in several Cape Town townships, police have denied this is linked to xenophobia.

Provincial police chief Lieutenant-General Mzwandile Petros said the media was responsible for creating the xenophobia rumours, resulting in refugees fleeing their communities.

President Jacob Zuma was quoted yesterday as saying reports of impending xenophobic attacks remained rumours.

Petros said the suspects who were arrested for looting several Somali-owned shops at Khayelitsha had not intimidated the owners, but broke into abandoned shops.

He said Zimbabweans were leaving the Boland region because there was no more work for them, as the seasonal farming cycle had ended.

Petros said for the last three months the police had investigated the rumours and there was no evidence that foreigners would be attacked.

He was speaking on Tuesday night at a provincial safety forum meeting - a body formed after the 2008 xenophobic attacks - which he chairs.

The purpose of the forum was originally to exchange information on xenophobia between the police and civic bodies.

Several civic organisations, including the Legal Resources Centre, the Social Justice Coalition, Cosatu and the SA National Civics Organisation, attended the meeting.

Some organisations want the forum to be an "omnibus" and to deal with issues beyond information exchange.

Petros rejected that, saying the police would only focus on preventing attacks, and urged the organisations to focus on mediation in communities.

Provincial head of disaster risk management Hildegard Fast said government departments were ready to engage the organisations on ways to prevent xenophobic attacks.