Mugabe condemns anti-migrant attacks in South Africa

HARARE (AFP) - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on Saturday denounced anti-foreigner violence that has left at least six people dead in neighbouring South Africa.

"I would like to express our sense of shock and disgust as we abhor the incident that happened in Durban where some five or six people were burnt to death deliberately by some members of the South African Zulu community," Mugabe said addressing thousands at Zimbabwe's 35th independence anniversary in the capital Harare.

The deadly anti-foreigner attacks, which erupted in the eastern port city of Durban, have spread to the economic hub, Johannesburg and sent more than 1,000 people fleeing the violence.

The 250,000-member community of Zimbabweans are the largest community of foreign nationals in South Africa.

Massive inequality and high unemployment have bred explosive resentment among locals against immigrants living in South Africa.

Mugabe, who is often accused of presiding over human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, denounced the violence in his roles as head of the African Union and regional bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC).

"That act can never be condoned by anyone. We say on our own behalf, on behalf of SADC and indeed on behalf of the African Union, that must never happen again in South Africa or in any other country on the continent," he said.

"We are glad President (Jacob) Zuma has assured us that this is not the South African way. It's the way of some misguided South Africans."

The violence has been largely blamed on a speech last month by King Goodwill Zwelithini, traditional leader of the Zulus, in which he blamed foreigners for South Africa's high crime rate and said they must "take their bags and go".

The King has since said his words were misinterpreted.

Mugabe said his government was preparing measures to repatriate affected Zimbabweans wishing to return home.

Zimbabwe's ambassador to South Africa Isaac Moyo said Harare are to begin Sunday the repatriation of about 1,000 Zimbabwean citizens affected by the attacks in Durban.

Most Zimbabweans travelled to South Africa to escape the economic hardship that gripped their country after a wave of unrest in 2008.

On Friday, over a hundred people marched outside the South African embassy in the Zimbabwean capital, calling for an end to the violence.

Mozambique and Malawi have also announced they would help their citizens return home.