Police called negligent in South African foreigner attack

Other News Materials 7 January 2009 21:10 (UTC +04:00)

Police in South Africa are coming under fire for negligence in a weekend attack that led to two deaths and one serious injury in an apartment building next to a police station, dpa reported.

According to reports, 150 armed people stormed an apartment building inhabited by migrants in the port city of Durban from other parts of Africa. Those targeted were forced to jump from windows of the building in Albert Park.

Police said a Zimbabwean and a Tanzanian fell to their deaths, while a 23-year-old Mozambican, initially reported dead, had survived the fall and was in a critical condition in hospital.

Witnesses quoted in the Daily News said police did not take appropriate action during the attacks, even though they occurred next to a police station and even though the mob noisily passed by the station twice.

The sounds of screams and windows being smashed could be heard during the storm of the apartment building. Panicked building residents fled over the roof of the neighbouring police station. A doorman tried twice, in vain, to call for police assistance.

Politicians in KwaZulu-Natal province where Durban is located on Wednesday denied that the attacks were xenophobic, saying the mob had targeted criminals.

"Opportunists were beginning to paint a picture that it was xenophobia but it was not," Albert Park councillor Vusi Khoza was quoted as saying in a report by the South African Press Association (SAPA).

Foreigners in the area however disputed this, saying no South African criminals were targeted at the weekend.

"Why are they only coming to buildings where foreigners live? Why when they enter do they shout 'amakwerekwere'?, Omar Osman, the chairman of the International Refugee Service, told SAPA.

Locals use the derogatory term "amakwerekwere" to refer to immigrants from other parts of Africa. In May, 60 African migrants were killed and around 100,000 displaced in a wave of xenophobic attacks across South Africa. Local mobs accused them of committing crime and taking job opportunities away from South Africans.