22 killed as S. Africans turn on foreign migrant workers

May 20, 2008|By Los Angeles Times

DIEPSLOOT, South Africa - The brutal apartheid era practice of setting opponents on fire has been revived in this country's crowded, litter-strewn shantytowns. But now the victims are foreign migrants.

Anger over unemployment and rising prices and simmering resentment against illegal foreign migrants exploded into xenophobic violence in South Africa, with at least 22 people slain in the past 10 days. Hundreds more were injured and as many as 10,000 fled their homes, as analysts struggled for explanations.

South Africans woke yesterday to images of a man in flames, one of several victims burned alive. Newspapers reported that onlookers in the township of Reiger Park, east of Johannesburg, laughed as the man rocked in agony.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu issued a plea to "please stop the violence now. This is not how we behave. These are our sisters and brothers. Please, please stop."

South African President Thabo Mbeki also called for an end to the "shameful and criminal acts."

The victims of the latest violence are mainly southern African migrants, in particular Zimbabweans, drawn to South Africa in hopes of finding jobs.

Violence in several neighborhoods continued yesterday, with attackers burning dozens of foreigners' homes. The body of a man who had been chopped and burned was recovered by police in Ramaphosa township east of Johannesburg.

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