Thousands of people gathered on 16 April in Durban, South Africa, for a peace march in the wake of anti-immigrant attacks in the city that left five people dead earlier in the week.

Political and community leaders and South African celebrities were among those taking part, with hundreds bussed in from other parts of South Africa to demonstrate against the violence that has rocked the country.

Willies Mchunu, Speaker of Provincial Parliament was the first to address the crowd saying, "Forward with peace in Africa, and in the world," reported IOL news.

As the crowd set off with a heavy police presence towards the city's town hall, they chanted: "Down with xenophobia, down!"

Crowds reportedly chanted for Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, who has been blamed for the recent attacks, after calling for foreigners to leave the country. He in turn has accused the media of misinterpreting his comments.

The government has been accused of failing to condemn the comments, and protect immigrants.

At the town hall, Minister of State Security David Mahlobo addressed the protesters, urging them to remember the spirit of the anti-apartheid movement to come together and beat the xenophobes.

News24 reported that Mahlobo said: "In the name of President Jacob Zuma we send our deepest condolences to the victims of these attacks. When these outbreaks started government officials reached out and provided services for the displaced foreign nationals. As the government we are against the attacking of foreign nationals. No one has the right to take the law into their hands. Crime is crime, whether done by South Africans or not."

Tobeka Madiba Zuma, wife of president Zacob Zuma, said: "As Africans we have our own way to respond to the challenges in an African way. Not to attack and kill one another."

Addressing South Africa's parliament in Cape Town, president Jacob Zuma condemned the violence, and urged people to provide information on incidents to police.

There have been reports of xenophobic gangs gathering on the march to carry out fresh attacks, and dispersal of these by police.

Malawi has said it is to evacuate its citizens from South Africa, while Mozambique has set up transit camps on its border for those fleeing the violence in the country.

The xenophobic attacks, which have forced thousands of mostly African immigrants in Durban to flee their homes, have brought back memories of the 2008 xenophobia riots, in which 62 people were killed, and sparked fears of copycat violence in other cities.