World Bulletin / News Desk
Ihsaan Haffejee, a photojournalist was hit twice in the back by rubber bullets as police attempted to disperse the crowd.
Live television images showed a group of protesters opposed to alleged illegal immigrants gathering near shops belonging to foreign nationals whom they attempted to attack.
Foreign nationals armed with rocks, sticks and pipes then struck back, leading to a major standoff forcing police to intervene.
“I got hit twice in the back. I was taking photos of foreign nationals trying to beat someone,’’ Haffejee said by telephone from the scene in western Pretoria.
Protesters say they are opposed to high immigration in South Africa amid concerns over high unemployment despite the government allowing many foreigners to settle in South Africa.
Protest organizer, Makgoka Lekganyane, told Anadolu Agency on Thursday that the protest would be peaceful, but Friday’s gathering turned violent with reports of several shops being looted in parts of the city.
President Jacob Zuma on Friday pleaded with South Africans not to blame all criminal activities on foreigners and to stop the violence.
“Many citizens of other countries living in South Africa are law abiding and contribute to the economy of the country positively,” he said in a statement.
It is wrong to brandish all non-nationals as drug dealers or human traffickers,” he underlined.
South Africa has witnessed a number of violent anti-immigrant incidents this month, with local communities burning homes belonging to some foreigners in Johannesburg and Pretoria, accusing them of committing crime.
Over 20 migrant-owned shops were also looted in Pretoria this week.