A deathly fight over foreigners’ employment in South Africa at the expense of South African youths turned deadly yesterday in Pietermaritzburg. At least one man died after parts of central Pietermaritzburg descended into chaos on Wednesday when violent clashes erupted in town and a fiery blockade brought traffic to a standstill.
According to a source, the disruption started near Berg Street after an alleged criminal incident involving a taxi owner and a foreigner.
This escalated into a confrontation between groups of people including unemployed youths and self employed street vendors, many of whom are believed to be foreigners, on Church Street.
Police and fire emergency services were called after the clash turned violent and there were incidents of “opportunistic looting” from shops owned by South African business-people.
The vice-chair of Pietermaritzburg Citizens on Patrol, Sanjeev Singh, said the exchange claimed one life.
“He was attacked and when he tried to seek refuge at a nearby bank he collapsed and died,” said Singh.
He said the pandemonium started shortly after 3pm and that while the situation was brought under control, some of the streets remained closed.
“A few shops have gone up in flames while some of the foreign vendors were also attacked,” said Singh.
This comes after protests in Alexandra, Gauteng, last week linked to Operation Dudula and the Dudula Movement, which has been challenging illegal immigration and high unemployment in South Africa.
Shops and other businesses in the township were forced to shut this week when locals, who claimed they were part of the Dudula Movement, allegedly searched for migrant employees and shop owners who did not have valid paperwork.
Police didn’t immediately respond to queries.