Xenophobic violence in the Welkom area during the past week was condemned by Free State premier Ace Magashule on Wednesday.

A number of shops owned by foreigners, mainly Bangladeshis, were broken into, set alight and looted in Thabong, Welkom and Odendaalsrus.

Magashule said the attacks were a clear violation of the rights of immigrants and foreigners. He said it appeared “criminal elements” had taken advantage of the situation.

“These attacks violate the fundamental principles of our Constitution, which rejects discrimination and intolerance on the basis of race, creed or geographic origin.”

Free State police said Thabong and Kutloanong (Odendaalrus) were quiet on Wednesday.

About 40 people have been arrested in Thabong since groups of youths took to the streets last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Warrant Officer Malebo Khosana said a group of jobless youths were unhappy after talks with local mines about jobs and took to the streets. They wanted mines to recruit local people first.

Twenty-four businesses were damaged in the three-day rampage in Thabong.

Captain Stephen Thakeng said Kutloanong was quiet on Wednesday. Seven people were arrested after youths started to attack foreigners and their businesses on Monday.

Sixteen shops were damaged and looted. Police had to escort foreigners out of the township.

Police said the violence in Kutloanong seemed to be related to the public violence and looting in Thabong last week.

Magashule urged residents in the area to condemn the violent attacks on innocent people, whose lives were threatened because of their geographic origins.

“We call upon our people to refrain from participating in such violent acts.”

He said the provincial government would continue to work with all concerned parties to find solutions to some of the problems facing citizens.

Police said those arrested in the two towns would begin appearing in courts from Wednesday to Monday next week. – Sapa