South African police have arrested three men who are believed to be the masterminds of the xenophobia motivated attacks which saw a mob of natives burn five shops, two houses and two vehicles belonging to Zimbabweans in Liphalale town in Limpopo Province last week.
Among the vehicles that were burnt were a Ford Bantam and a Nissan pick-up belonging to a Zimbabwean businessman.
Sources from Liphalale said yesterday that the trio is also linked to the disturbances in Maropong suburb between April and May this year.
Tensions had been high since April 16 when a number of Zimbabweans living in the area were attacked by South Africans.
The volatile situation in Liphalale has forced Zimbabweans living in that area to form a committee to engage the local community and policy makers on the repeated attacks.
The committee’s organising secretary Mr Jefta Mararike, who is also a victim of the attacks, said in a telephone interview yesterday that the trio was arrested on Friday morning at the interventions of the Zimbabwean consulate.
He said the situation had slightly improved following the deployment of police officers to the suburb.
“The police have arrested three men who were leading the mob in both incidents (that ii in May and last Thursday). They took action at the interventions of our consulate,” said Mr Mararike.
“The police have indicated to us that the suspects will appear in court this week and we hope to see justice prevailing. The situation is slightly improving though most of us are still skeptical about the way the police are handling the issues.
“They gave us assurance that there will be a heavy presence of police details, but we are only seeing very few on the ground.”
Mr Mararike said many Zimbabweans living in the area had relocated to other towns, while others have adopted a wait and see attitude.
Liphalale police spokesperson Warrant Officer Mokoena could not be reached for comment.
In May, five shops belonging to Zimbabweans were razed down to ashes by a mob in Marapong suburb in the same town.
It has since been established that the Liphalale Business Forum, which operates small to medium enterprises, is behind the onslaught on Zimbabweans whom they accuse of putting them out of business and of fanning crime in the area.
Zimbabwe’s Consular General to South Africa Mr Godfrey Magwenzi, who last week visited the area with South African police, said in a telephone interview that he would issue a statement on the matter later.
Zimbabweans living in South Africa, especially in Limpopo and Gauteng provinces, have been on the receiving end of xenophobia motivated attacks.
In June 2011, hundreds of Zimbabweans living in Seshego Township in Polokwane City were left homeless following similar attacks by a mob which also fatally stoned one of them.
In May, two Zimbabwean artists were shot dead by a Somali businessman in Diepsloot suburb, Johannesburg area.