22/02/2017 07:36 SAST | Updated 22/02/2017 08:30 SAST

Xenophobic Fears Are Growing In Pretoria As An Anti-Immigrant March Vows To Go Ahead

Various organisations have come out in opposition to the march.

Mike Hutchings / Reuters
'The planned march against foreigners in Pretoria is cause for concern. We call for calm and restraint."

The looting of foreign-owned shops in Pretoria West and Mamelodi on Monday and Tuesday, as well as an anti-immigrant march planned for Friday, have raised fears of xenophobic violence in Tshwane, according to reports.

Pretoria News reported on Wednesday that this followed an outbreak of violence at the weekend, when businesses and homes belonging to foreigners were burnt. Twenty foreign-owned shops were looted on Monday night.

Under the banner Concerned Mamelodi Residents, an anti-immigrant march planned for Friday has been widely condemned. Eye Witness News (EWN) reported that the Tshwane Metro Police had rejected the marchers' application to march, reportedly fearing violence. A range of organisations have come out against the march. The organisers plan to go ahead, nonetheless.

The Justice and Peace Commission and the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference have both called for calm, according to the Pretoria News.

According to the paper, chairperson Bishop Abel Gabuza said: "The planned march against foreigners in Pretoria is cause for concern. We call for calm and restraint."

A group called the Coalition of Civics Against Xenophobia blames Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba for the flare up in xenophobic violence, The Times reported.

Briefing journalists in Pretoria on Tuesday, Sharon Ekambaram, head of refugee and migrant rights at Lawyers for Human Rights, which forms part of the coalition, said Mashaba's remarks were irresponsible.

Mashaba reportedly said: "... whether you are South African or someone from outside, please respect our laws when you are in our city. Our law enforcement agencies deal with cases on a daily basis of students being robbed and when they find (the people), they find them with no papers whatsoever."

According to The Times, Ekambaram urged Mashaba to take responsibility for his remarks. She said, "It is really irresponsible of politicians to incite this kind of violence and we lay the responsibility for violence at his door."

One of the organisers of the march, Makgoka Lekganyane told The Times that the march was not xenophobic and that it would not be violent. He reportedly said the march would go to the departments of home affairs and labour to raise concerns, and that those who were not planning to march peacefully were not welcome.