A wave of anti-foreigner violence that has killed five people in and around the South African city of Durban in recent days (12-14 April) has spread to Johannesburg. Immigrants in the country's biggest city shut their shops in fear of attacks.

A mobile phone text message sent to shop owners warned them to shut their premises, claiming that "Zulu people are coming to town ... to kill every foreigner on the road".

south africa xenophobic attacks
A local taxi driver throws stones at a man on the ground in the Johannesburg Central Business DistrictMarco Longari/AFP
south africa xenophobic attacks
A taxi driver is pushed around during a confrontation with foreign nationals in JohannesburgMarco Longari/AFP
south africa xenophobic attacks
A local taxi driver is kicked by foreign nationals in the Johannesburg Central Business DistrictMarco Longari/AFP

Shops owned by foreigners in Durban, a key port on South Africa's Indian Ocean coast, have been looted and burnt during the violence.

Police fired rubber bullets to disperse angry crowds, as protests were held by both immigrants and locals, some brandishing hatchets and machetes.

south africa xenophobic attacks
A foreign national holds a knife following clashes between a group of locals and police in DurbanAFP
south africa xenophobic attacks
Members of the South African Police Services try to control a protester in DurbanAFP
south africa xenophobic attacks
A foreign national holds a machete to protect himself in DurbanAFP
south africa xenophobic attacks
South African men run from police as rioting and looting was quelled during anti-foreigner violence in DurbanRogan Ward/Reuters
south africa xenophobic attacks
Foreign nationals gesture towards a group of locals in DurbanAFP
south africa xenophobic attacks
Police clear the streets in an attempt to quell rioting and looting in DurbanRogan Ward/Reuters

South Africa, with a population of about 50 million, is home to an estimated five million immigrants. South African unemployment is officially around 25% but is widely believed to be much higher, and youth joblessness is nearer 40%.

Some politicians and residents say immigrants are in the country illegally and accuse them of committing crimes and taking over local shops and jobs.

south africa xenophobic attacks
Children play among the remnants of a fridge in front of a looted store owned by foreigners in KwaMashu, north of DurbanRogan Ward/Reuters
south africa xenophobic attacks
Foreign nationals sheltering in a tent eat a meal provided by members of the community in Isipingo, south of DurbanRogan Ward/Reuters
south africa xenophobic attacks
A foreign woman and her child sit with their belongings in a tent on a sports field in Isipingo, south of DurbanRogan Ward/Reuters
south africa xenophobic attacks
A foreign man feeds his young child in a tent in Isipingo, south of DurbanRogan Ward/Reuters

In 2008, more than 60 foreigners were killed in similar unrest as locals vented frustrations over various issues, particularly a lack of jobs in the continent's second most advanced economy.