CAPE TOWN: South Africa`s government Monday ordered the police and army to take "harsh" action to stamp out anti-foreigner threats after immigrants fearing violence sought refuge in several police stations.
Seven people were arrested for public violence in a Cape Town township after weekend looting, with heavy patrols deployed in areas including the wine farming towns of Franschhoek and Paarl.
"Opportunistic criminals must know that we will deal with them harshly, there is no way we will allow them to spread fear and crime, we are working very hard to find them and prosecute them," defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu said.
"Law enforcement officers must deal with them harshly," she added, saying those making threats "have no place in our society".
Sisulu and police minister Nathi Mthethwa headed for Cape Town on Monday to be briefed by senior officials on the threats.
Fears of post-World Cup xenophobic violence dogged the final days of the tournament, raising memories of attacks left 62 people dead across South Africa in May 2008.
Community groups have warned that tensions have risen again.
The seven suspects aged between 19 and 30 were arrested in a Cape Town township and due to appear in court on Monday.
"They were arrested for public violence," said police spokesman Frederick van Wyk.
Calm had been restored to the areas where "normal police patrols" with metro police and the army were in place, he said.
More than 120 immigrants remained at five police stations early Monday after fleeing their homes at the weekend, which saw sporadic attacks on foreign-owned shops, said provincial disaster management spokeswoman Daniella Ebenezer.
"The ministers also instructed that the (army and police) must today jointly deploy to ensure that all citizens are safe and no one is threatened," said a joint statement from the ministries.
BDST: 1805hrs, July 12, 2010