The Democratic Alliance has taken no steps against Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba after he called foreigners illegally in the country “criminals” and said they are “messing up” the city, even though the South African Human Rights Commission has now announced an investigation.

The past two weeks have seen a spike in attacks on foreign-owned shops and houses in Gauteng.

On Wednesday, the commission confirmed that it has launched an official investigation into whether Mashaba incited the recent attacks on the property of foreigners. It follows a complaint by a member of the public and accusations by Lawyers for Human Rights that Mashaba is to blame for the xenophobic violence that spread to Pretoria West this week.

“We are investigating the case and trying to gather the facts about what was actually said,” commission spokesperson Gushwell Brooks said.

In an informal Mail & Guardian survey in one of the areas where violence has flared up against foreign shop owners, residents blamed criminality instead of xenophobia for the looting.

The DA will not take any action unless the commission makes a finding, said the party’s Gauteng chairperson, John Moodey.

“When he spoke about the illegality of people without papers, we have to look at it in context.