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Daily Archives: May 24, 2008

South African anti-immigrant violence reaches Cape Town

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Anti-immigrant violence in South Africa has flared in the city of Cape Town for the first time, police said yesterday, as troops and police appeared to quell the unrest in the hotspot of Johannesburg.
Police reported attacks against immigrants and foreign-owned shops in a slum area of picturesque Cape Town, a major draw for tourists which had so far been spared the mob violence seen in Johannesburg.
At least 42 have been killed, more than 500 arrested and 16,000 displaced in the province of Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria, since unrest broke out 12 days ago.
Police spokesman for the Cape Town area Billy Jones said a public meeting in the Du Noon slum area 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of the city degenerated into violence on Thursday evening.
"Groups within the crowd started to loot shops owned by Zimbabweans and other foreigners," he told AFP, saying 500 had since fled the area and were staying in community centres.
"Some people were assaulted, but mostly shops were looted."
Police also reported pockets of overnight unrest in Durban in the KwaZulu Natal region and in North West province. Problems have also been seen in the central area of Free State.
In Johannesburg, the raging violence of the last week and a half appeared to have been brought under control by police bolstered by specialist units trained in public order and the army.
"It's quiet," said police spokesman for the Johannesburg area Govindsamy Mariemuthoo.
For the first time, soldiers deployed on Johannesburg's streets on Thursday to help stem the tide of violence that has seen mobs of armed youths attack foreigners in poor areas around the city.
About 200 soldiers assisted police with morning arrest and search operations in central Johannesburg on Thursday and remained on standby to offer back-up and logistical support to the police force.
President Thabo Mbeki bowed to pressure to call in the army on Wednesday after a request for support from the police force.
Foreigners in South Africa, many of whom have fled economic meltdown in neighbouring Zimbabwe, are being blamed for sky-high crime rates and depriving locals of jobs.
The violence, which has done untold damage to South African's reputation as the Rainbow Nation, is also taking its toll on the country's economy.
Unions and several mining companies reported Thursday that gold mines around Johannesburg, the country's economic heartland, had been hit by the unrest, with employees failing to show up for work.
South Africa's tourism minister has also warned of the impact on visitor numbers and a farming group raised alarm Thursday about the impact of xenophobia in the agricultural sector.
Politicians are increasingly blaming criminals for the anti-immigrant violence, but a number of rights groups have laid the blame with the government, saying the problem of xenophobia had not been addressed.
The vice president of the ruling African National Congress party, Kgalema Motlanthe, believes poor living conditions in slum areas are the root of the problem.
"Limited public amenities and resources are at the core at this," he told a media forum in Johannesburg on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has linked the violence to the economic and political crisis in his homeland which has sent millions of Zimbabweans over the border into South Africa.
"The causes for this crisis are none other than our political crisis back home," said the former trade union leader as he visited Alexandra on Thursday, a slum area in northern Johannesburg where the violence began last week.


France’s Sarkozy wants UN Security Council changes

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants new seats created at the UN Security Council so more countries can be represented at the influential body, he said in an interview published in Luanda, Angola, yesterday.
Saying he "deeply regretted" that negotiations to reform the Security Council had stalled, Sarkozy indicated he would support an interim solution creating a new category of seats.
"I am ready to envision an interim reform that could allow for a new category of seats with a longer term than that of members who are currently elected, and which would be renewable," he told Jornal de Angola ahead of his arrival here Friday for talks with President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.
"At the end of the initial phase, it could be decided that those seats be transformed into permanent seats," he said.
He called stalled talks on reform a "deep injustice and intolerable".
France supports adding permanent seats to the Security Council to include Germany, Japan, Brazil, India and two African countries to be determined.
The Security Council currently includes five permanent members — France, the United States, Russia, China and Britain — and 10 non-permanent members elected to two-year terms by the UN General Assembly.
Proponents of Security Council reform say the body must change to reflect the economic and political shifts occurring worldwide.