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Shut businesses or face attacks, locals instruct KZN foreign shop owners

Tensions have been simmering for some time in KZN’s northern townships, with locals accusing foreigner nationals of putting them out of business.

FILE: Foreign nationals gesture after clashes broke out between a group of locals and police in Durban on 14 April 2015 in ongoing violence against foreign nationals in Durban. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG – KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu has called an urgent meeting with foreign shop owners after they were instructed by locals to close their businesses by Thursday or face attacks.

The foreign nationals have been informed through a letter from the Northern Region Business Association, which claims to represent local informal traders to: “Cease all operations and await the next instructions”.

Tensions have been simmering for some time in KZN’s northern townships, with locals accusing foreign nationals of putting them out of business.

The meeting is underway in the KwaMashu township.

The last time a similar letter was circulated around KZN in 2015, at least six foreign nationals were killed and more than 2,000 were displaced. That is why Mchunu acted fast to call this meeting to listen to grievances between foreign nationals and local business people.

The locals say they gave their counterparts time to shut their businesses to “ensure that foreigners leave peacefully”. This has sparked panic among foreigner nationals in KZN and the police in this area say they are on high alert. The government is hoping to calm the situation to avoid a repeat of the deadly xenophobic attacks four years ago.

TENSION BETWEEN FOREIGN NATIONALS AND LOCALS

Mchunu says he’s worried about an escalation of tension between foreign nationals and locals.

Foreign and local shop owners attending the meeting have separated themselves into groups, while often pointing at each other and telling the media why the other one is wrong.

Mchunu says given the deadly xenophobic violence of 2015 this meeting insurgent.

“For fear of any escalation of tensions and therefore leading to conflicts we’ve decided to call this meeting, mainly to listen and make sure that the law is kept.”

Mchunu says he wants to know what’s causing the latest tensions, but time is running out as locals are adamant on their instruction that foreign shop owners shut their businesses and leave the township.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)

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