President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa, on Thursday revealed that at least 10 persons have been killed, two of them foreigners, in a wave of xenophobic attacks in the country.
Ramaphosa stated this in a televised address in Johannesburg.
According to the South African leader, “Over the past few days, our country has been deeply traumatised and troubled by acts of violence and criminality directed against foreign nationals and our own citizens.
“People have lost their lives, families have been traumatised … We know that at least 10 people have been killed in the violence. Two of whom were foreign nationals.”
Police in the country have arrested over 80 people and confirmed five deaths as riots in Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria intensified on Tuesday.
The latest wave of crisis in the country has raised fears of a recurrence of violence aimed at foreigners in 2015 in which at least seven people were killed.
High unemployment and widespread poverty have been cited as possible triggers for the recent disturbances and attacks on immigrants, but some officials say the riots might be the work of criminal syndicates.
“We can’t rule out pure criminality of criminals using a sensitive situation where there are real grievances on issues of unemployment and foreign nationals,” police minister Bheki Cele said.
Cele confirmed five people had been killed in the three days of rioting, but did not give further details on the circumstances or on arrests.
The Premier of Gauteng province, David Makhura, said during an inspection of the damage in Alexandra that there was a “xenophobic sentiment” underlying the attacks.
Ramaphosa condemned the violence, saying in a video posted on Twitter that “attacking businesses run by foreign nationals is totally unacceptable”.
Immigration to South Africa from across the continent and from parts of southeast Asia picked up in the early 1990s, spurred by the end of apartheid rule and the economic boom that followed.