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South African economy under fresh assault

Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 02:20

Immigrants in Johannesburg, South Africa's biggest commercial city, have been shutting up their shops as a wave of anti-foreigner violence spreads, raising more doubts over an already troubled economy. David Pollard reports.

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This is Durban, a manufacturing hub and a top South African tourist destination. For these Somalis chased through the streets, though, fast becoming a hotspot of a different kind. Violence directed at the country's sizeable immigrant population is flaring - again. Lack of jobs is fuelling the anger. Just one item on a list, says Commerzbank's Peter Dixon, that includes unequal incomes - and damaged labour relations that have lost its key mining sector millions in revenues. SOUNDBITE (English) PETER DIXON, COMMERZBANK, SAYING: ''You can add to that numerous infrastructure problems. We know, for example, that South Africa has suffered from major electricity blackouts for some time now. That is a problem both socially - and economically, because it affects those businesses which are trying to generate the foreign revenue that South Africa so desperately needs.'' South Africa, with a population of about 50 million, is home to some 5 million immigrants. One in four people are out of work - that rises closer to one in two for young people. Camps like this one offer food to some foreign nationals. And temporary shelter from the violence - though with no escape from the dilemma it poses. Thircessi Baloyi came to South Africa from his home in the Democratic Republic of Congo. SOUNDBITE (English) THIRCESSI BALOYI, DRC NATIONAL SAYING: "You cannot just decide to go back home, because they are some issues waiting for us there. They are already killing family there now, how can we go back?" Investors, too, split in their thinking. Wednesday saw the rand weaken by over a percent against the dollar - one trader said it'd been 'knocked off the ground'. Even if some others, apparently, can't get enough of South Africa's assets. Mike Ingram of BGC Partners. SOUNDBITE (English) MIKE INGRAM, BGC PARTNERS, SAYING: ''Johannesburg stock exchange is in positive territory for the year, even in dollar terms, and data out in the last 24 hours suggest demand for South African bonds is the highest it's ever been. If you're actually looking to invest in the real economy, though, if you're a business looking to invest in South Africa, surely you're going to be looking at it at least twice.'' In 2008, 60 people were killed in similar unrest. The death toll this time in single figures - but latest pictures show it spreading to Johannesburg. It was the main trouble zone seven years ago - and immigrant storekeepers there are already reported to have shut up shop.

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South African economy under fresh assault

Thursday, April 16, 2015 - 02:20