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Page last updated at 09:09 GMT, Monday, 26 May 2008 10:09 UK

Mozambicans flee S Africa riots

ANC leader Jacob Zuma on Sunday 25 May 2008
Jacob Zuma faced tough questioning at a Johannesburg township

Mozambique's government says about 20,000 of its citizens have fled South Africa because of the wave of attacks on foreigners in the past two weeks.

In South Africa, at least 50 people have died and a further 35,000 have sought shelter because of the attacks.

South Africa's president has denounced the violence as an "absolute disgrace".

But Jacob Zuma, leader of South Africa's governing party, was heckled as he urged an end to the attacks on a visit to a Johannesburg township.

The African National Congress (ANC) leader told a crowd of thousands in Springs township that violence would not solve problems of crime, poverty and unemployment, but make them worse.

Sadly here in South Africa we mark Africa Day with our head bowed
President Thabo Mbeki

"We have no running water, no electricity and we use the bucket system," one resident said, South Africa's Star newspaper reports.

"That is why we are angry and want to fight," he continued to applause.

'Return loot'

Mozambique's government said it had set up transit camps near the capital, Maputo, to accommodate the fleeing migrants.

On Monday, the Red Cross said it estimated that 35,000 people have been displaced within South Africa, many of whom have sought shelter in police stations and community halls.

SOUTH AFRICA
Mozambicans on a train leaving South Africa
Total population: 49m
Foreign population: 3-5m
Majority from Zimbabwe, also Mozambique, Nigeria
Unemployment rate: 30%

In Cape Town, the authorities and charities launched a campaign to feed and shelter the displaced.

At least 10,000 immigrants fled to makeshift camps outside the south-western city alone.

On Sunday, one Cape Town township pledged to reintegrate foreigners as soon as possible and recover items looted from shops.

"We must go and receive that stuff and we must bring back the Somali shopkeepers as speedily as possible as they are of good service to the community," one resident told the BBC.

South African President Thabo Mbeki made his comments in a national radio and television address.

He said the attacks were the worst acts of inhumanity South Africa had seen since the end of apartheid.

"Sadly here in South Africa we mark Africa Day with our head bowed," he said.

"The shameful actions of a few have blemished the name of South Africa through criminal acts against our African brothers and sisters from other parts of the continent as well as other foreign residents especially from Asia."

The president has been criticised for his handling of the crisis, including a response which some have seen as slow.

The BBC's Will Ross in Johannesburg says some in South Africa wonder why it took him two weeks to make this address to the nation.

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South African police raiding the home of a suspect

Earlier, he promised to launch an investigation into the attacks.

One critic, Moeletsi Mbeki - the president's own brother - has said the violence is the result of failed foreign and immigration policies.

Our correspondent says there is a great deal of xenophobia in South Africa and foreigners are often accused of taking away people's jobs and fuelling crime.

But despite this perception, he adds, most South Africans have been utterly appalled by the violence.

The troubles flared with a wave of attacks on foreigners in the township of Alexandra, within sight of some of Johannesburg's most expensive suburbs.

They have since spread to seven of South Africa's nine provinces.

In Johannesburg, the ANC said party officials were fanning out to community halls and stadiums across the city in what it called a "programme of engagement" to stem the tide of violence.


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