Up to 2700 Zimbabweans displaced in SA attacks

Up to 2700 Zimbabwean asylum seekers have set up a temporary “safety camp” in a rural South African town following attacks on their shacks in a dispute over jobs, a human rights group said yesterday.
South African police fired rubber bullets to disperse a mob that attacked shacks belonging to hundreds of migrants following several days of tension.
The attacks in De Doorns, a town 150 km (90 miles) from Cape Town, was reminiscent of 2008 riots in which foreigners were targeted. At least 42 people died and tens of thousands were displaced across South Africa.
“At the moment between 1300 and 2700 people, mostly Zimbabwean asylum seekers, have set up an internally displaced persons camp site or safety site, at De Doorns sports ground,” Braam Hanekom, coordinator of People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP), told Reuters.
Hanekom said the asylum seekers were housed in two large tents. There was limited water, poor security and a few portable toilets, he added.
“Today all the displaced asylum seekers refused to go to work for fear of being attacked,” Hanekom said.
The attacks flared over competition for seasonal jobs at farms in the area, with local people arguing that Zimbabweans were “stealing jobs” by agreeing to work longer hours for less pay than locals were prepared to do.
The De Doorns police station commander, Superintendent Desmond van der Westhuizen, told Reuters the displaced migrants would probably be held in tents for the next week, as discussions about their future continued with authorities.
“The were no new incidents reported over the last 24 hours,” he said. He estimated 3000 were affected by the attacks.
In 2008, a wave of attacks on foreigners in and around Johannesburg led to 15 000 migrants, most of them Zimbabweans, being forced into settlement camps.
The violence also spread to Cape Town, swelling the overall numbers of displaced, and was aimed mainly at the millions of Zimbabweans who fled their homeland in search of work and a better future.
The global economic downturn and the first recession in two decades have caused massive job losses in Africa’s largest economy. Unemployment is officially close to a quarter of the country’s population of 49 million.