Defence minister says army deployment is “last resort” to quell violent attacks on Africans that have seen 900 repatriated by their governments
South Africa deployed the army in some of its most volatile townships on Tuesday as Jacob Zuma’s administration declared an “emergency” over attacks on foreigners that have seen at least seven people killed so far.
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the defence minister, said the deployment was a “last resort” to help overburdened police to protect vulnerable foreigners in Johannesburg and Durban. Sh hoped it would “take back the authority” of the state after weeks of attacks.
“There will be those who will be critical of this decision but the vulnerable will appreciate it,” Mrs Mapisa-Nqakula told journalists after a meeting with local army and police chiefs in Alexandra township in Johannesburg.
“We are deploying because there is an emergency. We are not here to take over the work of the police. We are simply here to give support to what the police are trying to do to prevent a continuation of what we have seen.”
The latest suspected victims of the xenophobic attacks are a 33-year-oldZimbabwean man and his 22-year-old girlfriend who were shot by three men who knocked on their door in Alexandra on Monday night then fled without stealing anything.
On Saturday, Emmanuel Sithole, a Mozambican man was stabbed to death in the same township in an attack was captured by local media and provoked widespread outrage and an immediate police response. Four people appeared in court in connection with the death on Tuesday morning.Men suspected of killing Mozambican national Emmanuel Sithole in Alexandra township in an apparent xenophobic attack, are arraigned at the Wynberg Magistrate Court in Johannesburg (MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP)
The first soldiers were expected to conduct a walkabout in the township on Tuesday evening. Mrs Mapisa-Nqakula said Mr Sithole’s death had “shaken everyone” but denied that the military deployment was a response to that alone. “South Africans now know, even those who probably did not take it seriously, that we need to stand up,” she said.
Julius Malema, an outspoken former ally of Mr Zuma who now runs the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party, said the deployment of soldiers in the township was an “overreaction” by a government which he said had failed to address the root causes of the xenophobia crisis – joblessness and poverty.
At least seven people have been killed, more than 300 have been arrested and thousands have lost their homes and businesses since a wave of anti-foreigner sentiment swept through the country in the past three weeks.
Malusi Gigaba, South Africa’s home affairs minister, confirmed that more than 900 people have been repatriated to their home countries so far.
Doctors Without Borders said it was dispensing HIV and tuberculosis medication to around 7,000 people in three refugee transit camps in KwaZulu-Natal, where the violence started.
Source: The Telegraph