Saturday, May 24, 2008

Mozambique Declares State of Emergency Amid Xenophobic Attacks in South Africa

Mozambique declares state of emergency

23/05/2008 - 17:10:33

Mozambique declared a state of emergency today to help citizens fleeing attacks against foreigners in South Africa, warning the "exodus will worsen" as thousands are still housed in makeshift camps awaiting transport back home.

Meanwhile, South African police reported more violence today, with sporadic incidents reported across the country, including Cape Town and Durban, leaving scores more homeless.

Cape Town police spokesman Billy Jones said about 400 people had sought shelter on a racetrack after 12 people were injured in overnight attacks on an informal settlement in Cape Town.

"The area is quiet now but we are maintaining a visible presence," he said, adding that many of the displaced had been moved to various community centres and town halls.

At least 42 people have been killed and more than 25,000 foreigners displaced since attacks began earlier this month by South Africans who blame them for crime and unemployment.

Thousands have taken shelter in the winter cold at police stations, churches and other temporary camps. Officials plan to build tent cities on vacant land for them.

Predicting an escalating "exodus", Mozambique Foreign Minister Oldemiro Baloi said the state of emergency had been declared last night as thousands of Mozambicans flooded across the border.

Baloi said about 10,000 people had returned on their own while 620 people arrived on Thursday in buses arranged by the consulate in Johannesburg.

He said the violence in South Africa had been discussed by President Armando Guebuza and his Cabinet, who decided the government's relief agency would provide support to fleeing citizens.

In South Africa, inspector Sanku Tsunke said police were investigating the distribution of pamphlets calling for foreigners to leave the township of Garankua outside Pretoria. He said the pamphlets warned illegal immigrants to leave by today.

Other incidents have been reported in the eastern province of Mpumalanga, which borders Mozambique. Four shops belonging to Somali businessmen were burned as well as two buses, South African Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Violence has also been reported in northern and western areas of South Africa.

On Wednesday, President Thabo Mbeki called in the South African National Defence Force for the first time since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Soldiers were used in a dawn swoop on Thursday on three central Johannesburg worker hostels whose residents allegedly were involved in inciting violence. In all, 28 people were arrested.

The situation in and around Johannesburg where the worst violence broke out was calmer today. But there are now fears about the spread of disease and illness among the displaced.

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