British travellers to South Africa have been warned to stay away from certain areas of Johannesburg, Durban and other parts of Kwa-Zulu Natal province amid reports of xenophobic attacks in which five people have died.
Gangs of locals threatened Congolese, Malawians, Mozambicans and Nigerians living in Durban and began looting shops in the city centre.
Many businesses in Johannesburg closed early yesterday in response to the threat of attack, after a message circulated telling immigrants to “return to their home countries” went viral on social media, the Times reported.
Police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades, tear gas and water cannon in Durban as rampaging crowds sought out victims.
The attacks on African nationals have been going on for three weeks but have escalated in the past few days, with regular fights between locals and foreigners, according to local reports.
The Foreign and Commonwealth office said in an updated travel advisory: “There have been reports of localised disturbances and violence in. Monitor local media for more information and avoid any areas affected by violence.”
The FCO added: “There has been an increase in strike action in South Africa and some demonstrations have turned violent.
“Follow developments in the local media and avoid all demonstrations, rallies and large public gatherings.”
South African president Jacob Zuma condemned the violence in an address in parliament yesterday, saying: “The attacks violate all the values that South Africa embodies.
“South Africans are generally not xenophobic. If they were, we would not have such a high number of foreign nationals who have been successfully integrated into communities all over our country, in towns, city and villages. Not all foreign nationals are here illegally.”
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