Houses and vehicles were burnt as a mob accused Nigerians of peddling drugs and prostitution. Picture: ANA
Pretoria - Six people have been arrested after violence targeted at foreign nationals, particularly Nigerians, flared up in Pretoria West on Saturday, Gauteng police said. 

"One female suspect was arrested for public violence after police opened cases of arson and public violence," Captain Augustinah Selepe said on Sunday. 

"While monitoring and patrolling the area, police arrested a further five suspects in three separate incidents - two for dealing with drugs, two for possession of stolen property, and the fifth for possession of a dangerous weapon."  

At least two houses and numerous cars were torched on Saturday when a vigilante group went on the rampage, accusing foreign nationals of peddling drugs and running brothels. 

Selepe cautioned the Pretoria community to avoid street justice. 

"The six suspects will be appearing in court soon. We urge members of the public not to take the law into their hands and to report any suspicious or criminal activities to their nearest police station," she said.  

A tense calm prevailed in the area on Sunday, with numerous Tshwane metro police department and South African Police Service (SAPS) vehicle patrolling the area. 

Some Nigerian nationals complained that police did not intervene when they were attacked on Saturday. Some said they called police to come to their rescue, but police went on "harassing" Nigerian nationals in the area.  

"We are sitting ducks simply because we have no one to protect us. The South African government has once again proven that it does not care for the lives of foreigners, especially Nigerians. This is just the beginning because those thugs will come again to loot our hard earned assets. We are under attack from all sides now," said Lawrence Bia, who has lived in South Africa for the past 20 years. 

"We will not stand by and watch while our properties are plundered. If the authorities cannot protect us, we have legal means to defend ourselves. We are in this country for legal business and there are many South Africans living and doing business in our country," he said.  

Another Nigerian national Jide Ajibade said tensions between South Africans and the foreign nationals had to cease. "This [violence] has to to stop or else the rippling effects would cause waves beyond the expectations of all and sundry. War yields nothing but grief, deep seated hatred, and monumental losses. 

"I believe we must respect our host communities and the laws of the land by abiding with all laid down laws and rules. However, there seems to be a disturbing trend, especially from the black communities with their intolerance and disdain towards migrants, particularly immigrants of African descent," Ajibade said. 

The African Diaspora Forum (ADF) condemned the violence, urging the South African government to "take all necessary steps to prevent attacks on foreign nationals". Selepe, however, denied the allegations that police did not intervene when the Nigerians were under attack.  

"There is nothing such as police stood by and did nothing while Nigerians were attacked. The South African Police Service, it is their mandate to make sure all the people within the borders of South Africa are safe and protected. We are there to restore calm," she said. 

Last week, foreign nationals fled the Johannesburg suburb of Rosettenville following rampant incidents of mob justice and attacks targeted at alleged drug dealers. At least 10 houses, alleged to be drug dens and brothels, were set alight. 

African News Agency