Calm had been restored to several residential areas in the Durban area following a spate of attacks on foreign nationals, eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede said. File picture: Nqobile Mbonambi/ African News Agency (ANA)
Durban  - Calm had been restored to several residential areas in the Durban area following a spate of attacks on foreign nationals, eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede said on Monday.

Some of the Malawian nationals that had been displaced during the sporadic attacks last week had been successfully reintegrated into their communities, said Gumede via a press statement.

All official roleplayers that had been monitoring the violence said last week the attacks were criminal, not xenophobic, despite foreign nationals contending otherwise. 

The flare-ups took place in the suburbs of Kenville and Seacow Lake in the north of Durban and Sydenham and Overport, just outside the city centre. Police had initially said that two people were killed in the violence, but this was later denied. 

Locals attacked the Malawians at Burnwood informal settlement in the Sydenham area last week Tuesday, after accusing them of stealing. They then beat some of the foreigners and looted foreign-owned shops, setting several alight, according to eyewitnesses.

Over 100 Malawian nationals ended up at the Sydenham Police Station, seeking sanctuary.

The day before, in the Seacow Lake area, angry locals blocked Inanda Road in the industrial area of the city. The protests led to the death of a local woman who was employed at the China City mall. She had climbed onto the roof of the mall to escape the hostile protestors and fell to her death.

Gumede said that after a “highly successful meeting” with Burnwood residents, the municipality and the acting high commissioner of Malawi on Saturday, “calm has been restored and the majority of Malawians that were forcefully displaced last week have now returned to their homes”.

The mayor said that the spark that ignited the Burnwood incident appeared to be a Malawian national “found in possession of stolen goods that belonged to a South African”.

"This unfortunate situation was then hijacked by a group of locals who started kicking out other Malawians in the name of getting out 'criminal elements'," she said.

"As a sign of extending an olive branch, the Malawian nationals wrote a letter apologising for those that have committed the crime. This gesture was overwhelmingly welcomed by the locals who indicated that they were ready to welcome the Malawian nationals back into the community," said Gumede.

While a large group of the foreign nationals had decided to return to the informal settlement, about 105 had asked to be repatriated.

South Africa periodically experiences xenophobic flare-ups that start quickly and tend to be exceedingly violent, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal. In 2015, hundreds of police officers were deployed to township areas of the city as locals went on a rampage, looting and torching foreign-owned shops and beating owners. Four people died and hundreds were displaced during that flare-up.

An official report on the 2015 eruption found that the municipality and police had failed to heed early warning signs and that foreigners had not been adequately integrated. Locals had deliberately targeted the foreigners to cut out business competition, according to the report.

African News Agency (ANA)