The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) says the current wave of attacks in parts of Gauteng are akin to the 2008 xenophobia "crisis", warning that comments made by senior government officials are adding fuel to the fire.
Various businesses belonging to foreign nationals have been looted and damaged over the past couple of days in Tshwane, Johannesburg and Ekhuruleni.
"The current wave seems to embody a strong element of xenophobia [akin to 2008]," the IRR said in a statement on Wednesday.
The death toll currently stands at seven after two bodies, which were burned beyond recognition, were discovered in Alexandra on Wednesday.
Police Minister Bheki Cele and Gauteng Premier David Makhura visited different parts of the city yesterday, addressing residents and calling for calm.
"Mob violence in Johannesburg and elsewhere in Gauteng highlights once again the consequences of governance and economic failure," the statement read.
"The IRR cautions against ascribing the ongoing violence solely to xenophobia.
"Rather, as it was argued in 2008, what is at play is a toxic brew of frustration caused by unmet socio-economic aspirations, rising unemployment, grinding poverty and failing service provision."
The institute took umbrage to Makhura's declaration that "we live in a law-governed society and any act of criminality shall be dealt with decisively and swiftly, regardless of nationality".
Said the IRR: "Sadly, this is often not the case, and malfeasant behaviour is often conspicuously unsanctioned - sometimes at very senior level. A disregard for the law is the inevitable outcome."
As a solution to the on-going violence, the IRR proposed that "governance failures be addressed through, above all, a proper professionalisation of the civil service; proper application of the law and the rule of law be a non-negotiable, and for leadership to measure its conduct and not inflame passions that will ultimately be ruinous for society as a whole".