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South Africa's latest xenophobic attacks target Somali nationals

Wednesday May 19, 2021

The latest xenophobic attacks in South Africa have already left 13 Somali nationals dead in Khayelitsha this past Saturday.

A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest against xenophobia outside of the main gate of the South African High Commission which was shut down to avert reprisal attacks in Abuja, on September 5, 2019. - South Africa said on September 5, 2019 it had temporarily closed its diplomatic missions in Nigeria following violence against South African businesses carried out in reprisal for attacks on foreign-owned stores in Johannesburg. Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Images.

At least 24 Somali nationals have reportedly been killed since January of this year according to the Somali Community Board of South Africa (SCBSA). The deaths have been a result of xenophobic violence specifically targeting Somali business owners situated in various townships across South Africa. This past Saturday alone, 13 Somali nationals were reportedly killed in Site B of Khayelitsha, Western Cape province.

News24 reports that eleven men, suspected to have been involved in the murders, have since been arrested and taken into police custody. However, the Somali community feels that inaction on the part of the police has contributed to these ongoing murders. According to IOL, the SCBSA alleges that the "unabated extortion of foreign-owned businesses" where Somali business owners are being forced to pay so-called "protection fees" to gangs in the township.

Chairperson of the SCBSA, Amir Sheikh, said the following in a press statement:

"We believe the police failed to take action when this started because things have reached boiling point. This started when there was a lot of looting and spate robbery incidents. Some people offered to provide security in exchange to be paid for protection. A small pocket of opportunistic criminals saw this and used it to extort businesses and that is why we say police gave it room to grow."

Xenophobic attacks in South Africa have been an ongoing issue spanning over several years. In 2019, Johannesburg and Pretoria were embroiled in violence against foreign nationals that ultimately led to strained political relations between Nigeria and South Africa, heated exchanges on social media between artists from the two countries, hundreds of foreign nationals displaced and a handful even losing their lives.


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