Return of xenophobic attacks imminent in South Africa

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Another more violent wave of xenophobic attacks is more likely to erupt in South Africa after the world cup, a group of 10 prominent global leaders, known as the Elders have predicted.

They claim that scarcer jobs would spark the clashes that would surpass those seen in 2008 leaving at least 67 dead.

The month long football extravaganza kicks off in 10 days till through to July 11.

The Elders, founded in 2007 by former president Nelson Mandela, met in South Africa Monday to discuss a range of issues that were undermining efforts to ensure that progress is made in Africa.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former US president Jimmy Carter, former South Africa first lady Graca Machel, former United Nations (UN) secretary-general Kofi Annan and former Irish president and UN high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson, among others attended the meeting.

Ms Robinson is quoted telling reporters that the elders were “worried” that fierce competition for jobs after the World Cup would spark another wave of xenophobic violence as “construction jobs fall away and people, especially from Zimbabwe, will be looking for jobs”.

“I think everyone recognises that with having the World Cup in South Africa there are concerns. We hope it does not happen and I hope more job opportunities come,” she said.

The comments come barely a month after the South African Human Rights Commission criticised the government for its failure “on a massive scale” to respond decisively on the outbreak of attacks against foreigners two years ago.

At least 67 people, mostly foreigners from Zimbabwe were killed and more than 600 wounded during the attacks, according to police figures. The attacks started in Alexandra, a sprawling township in northern Johannesburg, then quickly spread to other parts of the country.

The commission identified infighting between local politicians and political groups jostling for power as one of the probable causes of the xenophobic attacks.

South African cities are home to millions of Zimbabweans and other nationalities from African countries, including Nigerians and Zimbabweans who fled poverty and persecution in their own countries.

In Durban there is a growing number of Zimbabwean nationals who are leaving the hustle and bustle of the often crime ridden life of Johannesburg in search of better fortunes in smaller cities.

Many humanitarian and human rights organisations in South Africa have been urging the Jacob Zuma-led government to put in place a plan to avert the recurrence of xenophobic violence.

The South African government which in 2008, only reacted to stop the xenophobic violence after two weeks, has remained silent on the matter.

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