JOHANNESBURG, The Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) are on high alert following alleged xenophobic violence which broke out in the Jeppestown area of Johannesburg.

The violent attacks against foreign nationals began more than two weeks ago after residents burnt down the houses of suspected drug lords and brothel owners in Rosettenville in Johannesburg and in Pretoria.

Gauteng Province Department of Public Safety spokesperson Michael Sun said Monday that the violence spread to the corner of Main Reef Road and Jerusalem Street where foreign-owned shops were looted.

On Friday, during a march against illegal immigrants in Pretoria West and Atteridgeville, a number of foreign nationals were seen holding pangas (machetes) to protect themselves against South Africans.

Sun said the JMPD and SAPS were working together to contain any possible xenophobic attack or related crime. “We have metro police officers on the ground feeding information back to the nerve centre, ready to deploy officers 24 hours a day,” he added.

“As part of the Gauteng Provincial Joint Operation Centre (JOC) we are also working with the SAPS and other law enforcement agencies to develop strategies and action plans to deal with xenophobic situations.”

Sun said xenophobia and racism had no place in society along with the looting, intimidation and violence associated with the outbreaks of violence, which were condemned in the strongest regard.

“As a caring and pro-poor government, we advocate for a tolerant and inclusive society and it must be understood that the assault, looting and damage to property associated with these alleged xenophobic crimes, is nothing but acts of thuggery,” he said.

“This issue must be placed squarely at the feet of national government who must take an un-muddled stance on immigration policy implementation and also guarantee the safety of foreign nationals who contribute to the economy of the City.”

Sun called on the national government to be transparent about the number of successful convictions and correctional measures imposed against xenophobic criminals.

“We encourage residents and community organizations to furnish us with information of any planned violence, and we will do our utmost best to contain the situation and ensure the safety of our residents and their businesses in the City.”