JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma on Saturday cancelled a state visit to Indonesia to deal with a wave of anti-immigrant violence at home.
The unrest which began in the port city Durban two weeks ago and spread to Johannesburg, Africa’s economic hub, appeared to have died down on Saturday as police patrolled trouble spots.
Thousands of foreigners have sought refuge in camps set up in Johannesburg and Durban and the governments of Zimbabwe and Malawi began bussing their nationals back home.
“The president once again expresses his condemnation of the attacks on foreign nationals and has urged the police to continue working round the clock to protect communities and bring perpetrators to book,” the presidency said in a statement, adding that Zuma would visit a displacement camp on Saturday.
Violence flared after Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini said in remarks widely reported by South African media in March that foreigners should leave the country.
He has since said his comments were misinterpreted and on Saturday attempted to defuse tensions.
“Anyone who is waiting for an order from Zwelithini to attack people, no. No,” broadcaster eNCA reported the king as saying during a traditional ceremony in rural KwaZulu-Natal.
At least four people have been killed in the violence over the last fortnight and foreign nationals have complained that the South African police are failing to protect them.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Saturday expressed shock and disgust at the attacks on immigrants.
“I would want now to express our sense of shock, disgust as we abhor the incidences which happened in Durban,” said Mugabe, speaking on behalf of the regional Southern African Development Community and African Union, both of which he currently chairs.