Police fired rubber bullets on Friday as tensions rose around an anti-immigrant march on Pretoria.
A large crowd of protesters was heading towards Pretoria West, an area largely inhabited by foreign nationals, mainly from Pakistan and Somalia.
Earlier, several shops owned by Pakistani and Somali nationals had been looted and torched as locals stepped up their calls for all foreign nationals to leave South Africa immediately. Seven people had been arrested in connection with the looting, police said on Friday morning.
The police action sent the crowd of protesters fleeing, but they soon returned, and moments later continued their march after seemingly securing an agreement with the police.
As the crowd of South Africans marched along, another confrontation loomed with a large crowd of several thousand migrants. Just like some protesters, some people in the crowd of migrants could also be seen waving weapons including bricks, sticks and batons.
Police moved in quickly, standing between the opposing groups. A police helicopter was hovering overhead. Police officers quickly pushed back the crowd of migrants, disarming many of them in the process.
“We will kill each other if that is what you’ve come for. This is our home and our businesses, and we will defend them with our lives. You have exploited us for far too long. We are not scared anymore,” shouted one man from the migrants’ group as police took away his stick.
The stand-off continued, with the police contingent standing firm in the middle of the two crowds.
Insults were being traded between the two crowds.
“Go back to your home countries. You are pests and rats. Go away, we don’t need you in this country. We will kill you now, you bastards. Voetsek,” shouted a man from the South African group.