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'Attacks on migrants due to their socio-economic impact'

Jeff Radebe says South Africans are not xenophobic & that tensions arise due to competition for scarce jobs.

FILE: Minister in the presidency Jeff Radebe. Picture: GCIS.

CAPE TOWN - Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe says the main reason for violent attacks against migrants is the socio-economic impact of their presence in high numbers in South Africa.

Radebe says the inter-ministerial committee on migration, which he chairs, has concluded that South Africans are not xenophobic, but that tensions arise due to competition for scarce jobs and other factors.

Radebe's been briefing the ad hoc committee set up by Parliament to investigate the attacks against foreign nationals in which at least seven people died earlier this year.

He highlighted the 'domination' of foreign nationals owning and running spaza shops as particular cause for concern.

Radebe says government research indicates there are between five and six million foreign nationals in South Africa, both legally and illegally, representing about 10 percent of the population.

He cited research showing most spaza shops are now operated by foreign nationals.

"In the local economy, in our townships and in the villages, foreign nationals are dominating in that area and that has negative consequences for the future of our country. So I think that has to be taken very seriously."

Radebe says some spaza shop owners act like cartels, closing out local competition.

He says some avoid paying taxes, import counterfeit goods and sell expired goods. He says the government plans to audit and licence informal businesses and enforce local by-laws.

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