Xenophobic attacks in Johannesburg this week now drawing reprisals across the continent.
Protesters smashed the windows of the South African consulate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo‘s second-largest city and attacked South African-owned stores in reprisal for assaults on foreigners in Johannesburg.
A demonstration called by a campaign group outside the consulate in Lubumbashi, southeastern DRC, spiralled out of control and protesters shattered the building’s windows, an AFP news agency photographer reported.
They then attacked and looted a store owned by the South African retail group MRP before police intervened, injuring some rioters.
The campaign group Lucha tweeted its disapproval. “You do not condemn violence by violence! We call on the police to stop the looters, without using excessive/legal force,” it said.
Attacks broke out in and around Johannesburg this week, killing seven people while dozens of shops were destroyed, mostly foreign-owned. More than 400 people have been arrested.
Foreign workers are often victims of anti-immigrant sentiment in South Africa, where they compete against locals for jobs, particularly in low-skilled industries.
The violence has led to angry demonstrations in Nigeria and expressions of concern in countries around Southern Africa, many of which have citizens working in South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy.
Tanzania’s national carrier suspended its flights from the commercial capital Dar-es-Salaam to Johannesburg on Thursday, saying the violence there was a risk to its passengers.
“You are aware that there is ongoing violence in South Africa whereby the youth have taken laws in their hands,” Tanzania’s Transport Minister Isack Kamwelwe told journalists in Dar-es-Salaam.
“Due to that, we have decided not to transport passengers to the destination where their lives will be in jeopardy.”
South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said her government was aware of a resentment-driven “Afrophobia” and was working to restore calm. It was also in constant contact with Nigerian authorities.
“There is a targeting of Africans from other parts of Africa, we can’t deny that,” Pandor said.
“But, there is also criminality … because a lot of this is accompanied by theft,” she said, describing the attacks as a complex phenomenon whose root causes were not easy to define.
Police said they found two burned bodies on Thursday in the Gauteng township of Katlehong, but the incident could not be immediately linked to anti-immigrant violence.
The violence in South Africa had largely fizzled out on Wednesday with only a handful of looting incidents reported by police, mainly targeting shopping centres.
In 2008, xenophobic violence killed 62 people, while in 2015 seven were killed in attacks in Johannesburg and Durban.
The latest violence has soured ties between the continent’s biggest powers, with Nigeria boycotting the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town this week.