The violence that is targeting foreign nationals in South Africa on Wednesday spread to the volatile Zulu heartland of KwaZulu Natal.
At least 24 people have already been killed in the wave of attacks that erupted last week. Locals accuse the foreigners of taking away their jobs and fuelling the high crime rate in the country. Six immigrants were wounded when mobs attacked a Nigerian owned tavern in Durban Wednesday. Hundreds of people armed with bottles and stones rampaged through the area attacking Nigerians. An ANC official in the area accused the Zulu based Inkatha Freedom Party of organising the attacks. The IFP meanwhile denied the allegations and issued a statement saying they were saddened by the xenophobic attacks.
Over 3 million Zimbabweans are thought to be in South Africa and are bearing the brunt of the violence. The majority have fled political violence and economic hardship in Zimbabwe. Migrants from other African countries have been caught up in the violence. Thousands have now fled their homes and sought sanctuary in police stations, churches and premises used by aid groups. Officials on Wednesday began serious discussion on whether the army should be deployed to quell the unrest. President Thabo Mbeki's senior aide Essop Phahad confirmed that police, defence and justice departments were discussing possible troop deployment. The police have already asked the army for help with equipment to use in quelling the violence.
The coordinator of the Global Zimbabwe Forum Daniel Molokela said the government was reluctant to send soldiers into the townships as this could create new problems in those communities. He says precedent has shown how such deployments lead to greater resistance from members of the community. Images of foreigners being set alight and attacked by violent mobs have put South Africa's policy towards immigrants in the spotlight. Mbeki's statement that there was 'no crisis' in Zimbabwe has become the defining context used to explain his suicidal approach to the issues. Critics argue that government acknowledgment of the crisis in Zimbabwe would have facilitated a suitable policy towards the refugees and enabled aid and refugee organisations to take the strain off the South African system.
At least 13 000 people have now been made homeless by the current spate of violence.