HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — More than 100 humanitarian groups have urged the African Union's human rights body to ensure that South Africa take "concrete steps" to prevent further attacks on immigrants.
Seven people have died this month in anti-immigrant violence that has mainly targeted migrants from other African nations, according to South African officials. After two weeks of turmoil in specific areas of Johannesburg and Durban, the unrest has declined.
The group of organizations asked the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights to appeal to the South African government to protect foreigners living in the country. In the wake of the violence, a few thousand migrants have chosen to return home.
"The solution to the violence should not be to repatriate all foreign nationals, but to ensure an environment in the country in which their rights are protected," said an open letter signed by 129 groups that represent organizations from a number of African countries. They also urged South Africa to set up special courts to deal with the cases of attacks against immigrants and foreign-owned shops.
The South African government has taken a number of steps to control the violence, including on Friday introducing an app to track attacks.
In Zimbabwe, prayer services were held, during which religious leaders called for African governments to repair their economies to avoid a mass exodus of citizens.
Some South African businesses in Malawi were closed after a consumer rights group called for a boycott. Police officers patrolled the car parks around large South Africa-owned chain stores. The Consumer Association of Malawi said it would not hold demonstrations for fear they would lead to looting.
Still, the boycott, dubbed "Black Friday," aimed to send a message to South Africa.
"South Africans cannot chase us from their country and expect us to help them grow their economy by patronizing their shops and goods," said John Kapito, the association's director.
Tenthani reported from Blantyre, Malawi.