South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba called for peace in Rosettenville, south of Johannesburg on Monday, where local people have burned some foreigners' houses.
The minister said this while addressing some safety and community leaders at Yeovile police station in Johannesburg.
A week ago, South Africans started burning houses owned by Nigerians accusing them of running brothels and selling drugs in the area. Last weekend the locals met again and torched 12 houses owned by foreigners, mostly Nigerians. A night club was also set alight.
The government officials toured the area on Monday to calm the tensions between foreigners and South Africans.
Gigaba warned community leaders not to incite hatred and violence against foreigners. He said, "Leaders have a responsibility at all times to be measured in their public pronouncements, there could be lives that are lost, property could be destroyed which belongs to private individuals and they would have invested enormously in the development and maintenance of that property."
He warned that the law will take its own course if South Africans violate the law by intimidating, threatening and attacking foreigners.
Gigaba said Rosettenville has been targeted as the problem area for xenophobia. He said they will drop outreach programs and talk to South Africans and foreigners to bring about peace in the area.
He also said, "South Africa is highly attractive to immigrants, both regular and irregular. The irregular migrants would include the silent seekers who arrive in South Africa without documentation."
The Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba has been raiding some foreigners' houses in Rosettenville in company of law enforcement agents looking for drugs and ladies doing prostitution.
The mayor who belongs to the opposition political party (Democratic Alliance) has been criticized by many for inciting xenophobic attacks in the City. He said illegal foreigners are the ones committing crimes and must leave.
A student body, South African Students Congress (SASCO) slammed the mayor on Monday for inciting violence.
Ownabile Lubhelwana, SASCO regional chairperson said, "they greatly condemn Mashaba for the xenophobic remarks he made to the residents of Rosettenville, Johannesburg. The remarks made by the mayor incited violence, led to the incineration of about 12 houses and also threatened lives of our fellow students. Johannesburg is a cosmopolitan city that consists of young scholars from all over the continent."
The students accused Mashaba of suffering from serious xenophobic gestures. They encouraged those in positions of leadership to talk responsibly to avoid inciting hatred toward others.
Lubhelwana said, "Instead of addressing problems, the mayor is busy inciting violence against our fellow students from various African countries."
Two weeks ago four houses owned by Nigerians were burnt in the same area. The local police said they have arrested nine suspects in Rosettenville on Sunday.