South Africa deployed troops Tuesday to anti-immigrant hotspots to help quell xenophobic violence in which at least seven people were killed and shops run by immigrants were looted.
Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told the media that it is the right time for the country to deploy its troops to restore order in affected areas.
The deaths of seven people in recent violence against migrants necessitates the deployment of troops, Mapisa-Nqakula said. But she said the army “will not take the lead, it is the police who must provide the leadership.”
The deployment will start in Alexandra, a township of Johannesburg, where a Mozambican national was stabbed to death at the weekend – the latest killing in the riot.
The government had resisted earlier calls to deploy troops, insisting the police could handle the situation.
“It’s not too late at all, precisely because we are not a military state,” Mapisa-Nqakula told a press briefing in Johannesburg.
The South African National Defense Force (SANDF) is awaiting assessment from police to decide whether to deploy more troops, she said.
State Security Minister David Mahlobo said at the press briefing that it would be a joint operation.
“The police have done their best, but now they have requested assistance in volatile areas.” he said.
The move comes as violence re-flared up in Isipingo and Durban on Tuesday despite relative calm in other areas.
Some South Africans attacked foreigners who wanted to reopen their businesses in Isipingo, a town that has been hit hard in recent attacks, police spokesperson Daniel Dunia said.
Some mobs went to immigrants’ homes, chased them out of their houses and took their belongings, and some foreigners were beaten up, said the spokesperson.
Dunia urged immigrants to stay in the temporary camps and not to return to their homes at present as the situation remained tense.
Authorities have set up three camps in areas like Isipingo to house thousands of immigrants displaced by the violence. Enditem