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Rising Violence Pushes Immigrants to Flee South Africa

Political fear and uncertainty in Zimbabwe have driven many people to neighboring South Africa, prompting a violent backlash from South Africans who claim that jobs are being lost to immigrants. Analysts examine the dynamics that have led to this rise in violence.

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    A weeks-long campaign of anti-immigrant violence in South Africa has killed more than 50 people and left 40,000 displaced. Immigrant residents of South Africa have been driven from their homes, as violence raged across the country.

    The South African attackers have blamed immigrants for increased crime and a shortage of jobs for poor South Africans. Joseph Chatiza was one of thousands from neighboring Zimbabwe, a country near political and economic collapse.


    We are not taking their jobs. The reason why we are running away from our country is that, in our country, there's no work, no work and no money, so we come here for green pasture.


    The violence was most intense in South Africa's largest city, Johannesburg, its surrounding areas, and on the Atlantic coast in Cape Town.

    Local leaders expressed shock at the spasm of violence in Johannesburg.

  • FIROZ CACHALIA, Community Safety Official:

    South Africa represents an emancipation from tribalism, from discrimination. That's what we represent to ourselves and the world, and so it was an embarrassment. It was shocking.


    The government of South African President Thabo Mbeki has set up camps for these internally displaced people, many of whom have lived in the country for years.

    Mbeki was criticized for leaving South Africa during the crisis last week. He ordered the military in to restore calm. It was the first such internal military police action since the end of apartheid in 1994.

    Some immigrants have fled to their homelands. This man returned to a camp set up in Mozambique, a nation bordering South Africa to the northeast. He was unsure of his brother's whereabouts in their former home.


    My brother is there. I don't know if he is dead; I don't know still if he is alive. So I'm here, trying to run.


    This man is trying to return to Somalia.


    I want to die in my country. I don't want to die in South Africa. I want to go back to Mogadishu.


    Back in South Africa, winter is coming, and medical personnel fear conditions in the makeshift camps will worsen.


    We are treating more patients with common diseases related normally to their living conditions, so with patients with common cold, with stress diseases, with diarrhea, and we are treating in mobile clinics.


    Calm has begun to be restored, but there's now mounting criticism of Mbeki's government, and a leading newspaper called for him to resign. Some international investors have also been expressing concern.