JOHANNESBURG The New York Time— Anti-immigrant protesters led a violent march into South Africa’s administrative capital, Pretoria, on Friday, and the police responded with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons.
President Jacob Zuma appealed for calm and condemned the latest wave of anti-foreigner violence to grip South Africa in recent years.
“Many citizens of other countries living in South Africa are law-abiding and contribute to the economy of the country positively,” Mr. Zuma said.
“It is wrong to brandish all non-nationals as drug dealers or human traffickers,” he said. “Let us isolate those who commit such crimes and work with government to have them arrested, without stereotyping and causing harm to innocent people.”
Legal and illegal African immigrants to South Africa, which has the continent’s most advanced economy, have been the focus of criticism and resentment and sometimes of violent attacks in recent years. South Africans accuse migrants of stealing jobs or exploiting locals by running small businesses in poor, black townships.
Others blame foreigners for the country’s high crime rates. The accusations, which are not backed up by official statistics, resonate in a country with a jobless rate of 27-percent and yawning income inequalities.
The latest anti-immigrant sentiments were set off in a neighborhood south of Johannesburg called Rosettenville, where residents burned down a dozen houses that they said were being used by Nigerians as drug dens and brothels.
The attacks spread to other areas, including around Pretoria, where communities and businesses owned by foreigners have been targeted.