JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s president on Saturday canceled a foreign trip in order to deal with a wave of attacks on immigrants that have killed at least six people. In the latest violence, mobs attacked shops owned by foreign nationals in a poor area of Johannesburg.
President Jacob Zuma had been scheduled to leave Saturday evening for Indonesia to attend a meeting of African and Asian leaders, but will instead stay to campaign for a peaceful resolution to the unrest that has swept several areas of South Africa in the past week, his office said.
Zuma planned to visit immigrants staying in a camp in the Chatsworth area of the coastal city of Durban, where some of the worst violence has occurred.
“These attacks go against everything we believe in. The majority of South Africans love peace and good relations with their brothers and sisters in the continent,” Zuma said in a statement.
There was a heavy police presence in the Alexandra township of Johannesburg after rioters looted some shops, burned tires and built street barricades overnight, according to eNCA, a South African news outlet. Police fired rubber bullets in an attempt to stop the unrest, the report said.
Several shops and cars owned by immigrants were torched in downtown Johannesburg in recent days.
Attacks on immigrants, many of them from other African countries, in and around Durban have subsided after the deaths of six people there, police said. Some 112 people were arrested in KwaZulu-Natal province, which includes Durban, during the riots there, according to authorities.
Some South Africans have accused immigrants of taking jobs and opportunities away from them in a country with high unemployment. The government has said it is addressing complaints about undocumented migrants, while noting that many foreign nationals are living legally in South Africa and contributing to economic development.
About 60 people died in similar unrest in South Africa in 2008. In January this year, four people died during a week of looting of foreign-owned shops and other violence in Soweto and other areas of Johannesburg.
The violence this month has prompted some African countries to make arrangements for the return of some of their citizens from South Africa.
Many immigrants are from neighboring Zimbabwe. Its president, Robert Mugabe, said Saturday that he was glad that the South African government had denounced the violence. Mugabe is currently chairman of the African Union as well as a regional group, the Southern African Development Community.
“If there is any issue arising from the influx of Africans into any country, surely that can be discussed and measures can be taken and taken amicably to deal and address the situation,” Mugabe said in remarks on the 35th anniversary of Zimbabwe’s independence.
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