May 23, 2008

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) — South Africa made its first public apology Friday for anti-immigrant violence that has left more than 40 dead and 17,000 displaced, as unrest spread to seven of the country’s nine provinces.

“We are very much concerned and apologise for all the inconveniences that the incidents have caused,” Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said during a trip to Nigeria.

Although violence in the hotspot of Johannesburg appeared to have been contained by police and the army, police reported attacks on foreigners for the first time in the coastal city of Cape Town and elsewhere.

As new outbreaks emerged African Union (AU) heads of state meeting in Tanzania “expressed shock” at the violence, which revised estimates by the UN refugee agency showed had displaced 17,000 people.

“What is happening now in South Africa at a time when we are trying to unite the continent is really an anti-climax,” AU chairman, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said.

The xenophobic violence hit Cape Town when a public meeting to address the danger of xenophobia in the Du Noon slum area north of the coastal city degenerated into violence on Thursday evening.

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