CAPE TOWN, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- The South African government on Tuesday denied that foreigners were being targeted in the latest spate of violence that swept parts of the country.
Evidence presented to the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster of Ministers has not shown that foreign nationals were being targeted because of their nationality, the government said in a statement issued by the Department of Defence.
"We have noted with concern that the incidents of lawlessness have been characterized as xenophobic attacks," the statement said.
"South Africa is not a xenophobic country," and "whoever is found on the wrong side of the law will be dealt with accordingly," the statement added.
South Africa has been hit by a new spate of violence for more than two weeks, claiming the lives of at least 12 people and resulting in the arrest of more than 170 people.
The violence has been dubbed as "xenophobia-related" as quite a number of foreign-owned shops were looted and foreigners, particularly foreign truck drivers, came under attack.
Law enforcement agencies have moved swiftly to restore peace and stability where violence took place, particularly in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban, the statement said, adding that "intelligence agencies are working day and night to detect and prevent the occurrence of these violent incidents."
Law enforcement will ensure that the authority of the state is not undermined, and any attempt to undermine the authority of the state will be met with severe consequences, the statement said.
It also said South Africa is working with embassies of other African countries to assist those who want to return to their countries of origin.
South Africa is host to some 274,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Xenophobia-related attacks are not unrare there as foreigners are blamed for taking up employment that should have been taken by locals.