Kenyans suffer losses in SA attacks

People rummage through looted foreign-owned shops in Alexandra township, Johannesburg. [AFP]
Kenya is keeping a close watch on events in South Africa following days of xenophobic attacks targeting foreigners that have left five people dead.

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma confirmed that two Kenyans had lost property in the skirmishes meted out to Africans.

Condemning the violence, Dr Juma said the country’s mission in Pretoria was following the events and had contacted South African authorities.  

“Our Embassy in South Africa is in close contact with the Government to ensure the safety of Kenyans and protection of their property. Reports indicate two Kenyans were affected and their property destroyed,” she said.

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Nairobi said it had welcomed a statement issued by President Cyril Ramaphosa condemning the attacks and hoped the ethos and values of Pan Africanism would prevail over narrow nationalisms, and be the bonds that glue us together, as African brothers and sisters.

One of the affected Kenyans is a trader dealing with a clothing line in Malvern, in Johannesburg's suburbs, whose store was looted.

“We are keeping a close eye and we are watching the situation with serious concern and hope the authorities arrest the violence,” Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau told The Standard.

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The PS said it was unfortunate that Africans were being targeted, saying already the violence has led to loss of stocks and businesses.  

“Kenyans report living in fear and feel they are unwelcome guests,” Mr Macharia said, adding that Kenya was not in a rush to issue any travel advisories as done by other countries or make demands until they have assessed the situation fully.

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Observers believe what is being witnessed is a result of the horrific ruin of apartheid policy of segregation and discrimination that appears to have conditioned locals to hate other people.

South African grocer Shoprite Holdings said yesterday several stores in its home market, Nigeria and Zambia were closed and extensive damage had been done to several supermarkets over the past 24 hours.

The unrest has kindled memories of previous deadly attacks on foreigners and strained diplomatic relations with Africa’s other economic powerhouse Nigeria, where reprisals on South African businesses have started.

The shops were attacked after days of riots in South Africa chiefly targeting foreign-owned, including Nigerian, businesses.

Other African countries from Ghana to Ethiopia and regional bloc the African Union have called on Ramaphosa to take decisive action.

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Artists and ordinary citizens from across the continent have taken to social media to voice their anger, with some threatening retaliation.

"Taking action against people from other nations is not justified and should never be allowed in our beautiful country. … We need to quell those incidents of unrest," Ramaphosa told an event on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Africa three-day summit that started yesterday.

“South Africa must be a country where everyone feels safe, including women and foreign nationals,” Ramaphosa said, also condemning recent incidents where women had been killed.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Malawi’s Peter Mutharika pulled out of the conference at the last minute, prompting speculation in South Africa that the no-shows were linked to the attacks on foreigners.

But WEF spokesman Oliver Cann said Kagame and Mutharika had informed conference organisers that they could not attend by Saturday before the attacks had started.

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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said on Tuesday sent a special envoy to meet with Ramaphosa to secure the "safety of (Nigerians) and property".

MTN said it would shut all stores and service centres in Nigeria until further notice. "The safety and security of our customers, staff and partners is our primary concern," MTN Nigeria said in a statement. "MTN condemns any acts of violence, prejudice and xenophobia."

Police have arrested 289 people in five areas impacted by the violence. Many gutted, emptied shops remained closed as owners, many of them foreign, fear returning to their property.

South Africa Police Minister Bheki Cele confirmed on Tuesday that five people had died since the violence started on Sunday night.

Zambia's transport ministry on Tuesday said lorry drivers should "avoid travelling to South Africa until the security situation improves".

Hundreds of University of Zambia students dressed mostly in black and chanting "No Violence" protested outside the South African High Commission against the attacks on foreigners yesterday. Zambia criticised them for burning a billboard.

Ethiopia advised its citizens to close their businesses.

The Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) has called off the country's friendly football batch against South Africa in Lusaka that was scheduled for Saturday.

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South Africaxenophobic violence