Several foreign owned shops were looted in Johannesburg on Monday as rioters descended on the streets of the country's largest city blaming migrants for taking opportunities allegedly meant for them.
Several vehicles and buildings housing businesses belonging to foreign nationals mainly from other African countries and Asia were torched.
Violence began on Sunday evening in Jeppestown near Johannesburg where residents started looting foreign owned shops after one of the buildings in the area caught fire.
By Monday morning violence spread to other parts of Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria, where large crowds were seen breaking into shops stealing goods ranging from groceries to electronic equipment.
The Police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to quell the situation as rioters broke into more shops and at times attacked foreign shopkeepers. Motorists were also stoned by rioters in some parts of Johannesburg shattering their windscreens.
''We have so far arrested over 90 people in Johannesburg for public violence,'' Gauteng Police spokeswoman Mathapelo Peters told reporters in Johannesburg.
South Africa's ruling African National Congress Party (ANC) condemned the violence and urged the police to take action against the looters whom they described as criminal elements.
“We condemn this violence that’s taking place, irrespective of whatever reasons people want to give, as unacceptable,'' ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule said at a press conference in Johannesburg late Monday.
In recent months, South Africa has been hit by a wave of violence targeting foreign nationals and their businesses. Last week, angry minibus taxi drivers looted foreign-owned shops and set others alight in South Africa’s capital Pretoria after a foreign national allegedly killed one of their colleagues the previous day.
While last month, mobs in South Africa also looted several foreign-owned shops on the outskirts of Johannesburg, accusing foreigners of not respecting local laws, police said at the time.
There is high unemployment in South Africa where locals often accuse foreign nationals of taking up jobs meant for them. They also accuse foreign nationals for unfairly competing with them in running retail businesses, which they say foreigners should not own. Locals also accuse foreigners of crowding social services such as health facilities.
By Hassan Isilow in Johannesburg