Calm restored to Durban's CBD for now

Hundreds of foreign nationals were gathered in the area on Tuesday with many saying they wouldn't leave.

A standoff erupted between foreign owners and locals in Durban on 14 April 2015. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

KWAMASHU - After violent demonstrations that saw thousands of foreign nationals clash with police officers on Tuesday afternoon managed to clear Mahatma Gandhi Road in Durban's CBD.

Water cannons, stun grenades and tear gas were fired into the large crowd by police attempting to disperse angry protesters.

Foreigners took to the streets this afternoon saying they're standing up to locals who've been attacking their shops over the past two weeks.

At least five people have been killed in the unrest.

The situation was still tense on Mahatma Gandhi Road in the Durban CBD, with police patrolling the streets and the sound of sirens in the air.

Hundreds of foreign nationals were still gathered with many saying they would not disperse.

One woman called for an end to what she said was "senseless violence".

"They should stop this foolishness. All countries have foreigners but they aren't fighting."

Police were patrolling most parts of the CBD including Albert Park, a potential hot bed that is home to thousands of foreigners in the city.

LABOUR DISPUTE BLAMED FOR THE VIOLENCE

Government, meanwhile, said a labour dispute at a supermarket in Durban is believed to have sparked the series of attacks on foreign nationals.

Despite the attacks being centred on immigrants of African descent in KwaZulu-Natal, government believed this was a national problem, characterised by 'Afrophobia'.

Foreign-owned shops were looted during a spate of attacks in Soweto earlier this year, reminiscent of the xenophobic violence which gripped the country in 2008.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko said the labour dispute has snowballed into rampant attacks on foreigners.

"The employees were complaining about the employer employing foreign nationals."

He said these attacks are a symptom of Afrophobia.

"The trend speaks for itself as there are particular African nationals that are prioritised in these attacks."

Nhleko and two of his cabinet colleagues have been assigned to work with the provincial government in a bid to quell the violence.

CALLS FOR MORE LAW REINFORCEMENT

At the same time, lawyers for Human Rights in Durban called on the police and Durban Metro to deploy more officers to the streets as officers tried to disperse armed foreigners who said they were fighting back against locals.

The violence that plagued mostly townships over the past two weeks spread to the city centre.

Thousands of people earlier took to the streets as tensions between locals and foreigners reached boiling point.

One lawyer for Human Rights, Thandeka Duma, said the attacks on foreigners started at around midday and spread across the Durban inner city.

Duma said a man she advised to seek safe accommodation was assaulted.

"His T-shirt was torn because he was in the street where people were beating up foreigners and looting shops."

She insisted the police needed to do something about it.

"It can't be that people are going around in town just attacking people and there are no police to arrest them because the situation has gotten out of hand."

All pictures by Vumani Mkhize/EWN.