Rival Xhosas and Zulus battled with guns, axes and spears today, killing at least 39 people despite calls to end the violence that has claimed at least 502 lives in 10 days.
Police and witnesses said gangs of Zulus and Xhosas clashed early today at a sprawling migrant workers’ hostel at Vosloorus, a township east of Johannesburg. Scores of armed Xhosas stormed the complex, engaging in hand-to-hand fighting with Zulus as the hostels were set on fire.
“There were lots of burnt bodies,” a local journalist said. “Everyone was in shock.”
Police said at least 39 people were killed in Vosloorus.
After dawn, police moved in and fired tear gas to break up the fighting. Bodies were put in small piles for collection.
Witnesses said many of the bodies also had been ritually mutilated. They said police vehicles were attacked in Vosloorus.
Overnight fighting in Kagiso township west of Johannesburg killed 20 people, police said. Xhosas fighting Zulus living in a migrant workers hostel set up burning barricades in streets to try to prevent attacks, witnesses said.
Maxwell Mulovhedzi, a security guard, said fighting erupted in Kagiso when armed Zulus from the hostel attacked passers-by.
“They attacked an old man with an ax and killed him,” he said. “After a while they attacked another two people, killing them both.”
In other township violence:
- A 13-month-old baby was burned to death in a house that was firebombed Tuesday night in Kwathema, according to news reports.
- A white security guard working for a private company was shot and killed in Soweto late Tuesday and his shotgun taken, police said.
- A black police officer was killed and another officer critically injured today when two black men hurled a Soviet-made grenade into their vehicle in Soweto, according to the South African Press Assn.
- Armed blacks also hurled firebombs at police armored vehicles and shots were fired at police patrols in Kagiso, police said.