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21 Apr 2015 16:20
Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula announces on Tuesday in Alexandra that the army will be deployed to deal with xenophobic violence. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)
The South African government has now called on the South African
National Defence Force to “reinforce the work of police”, “exert the authority
of the state” and “reclaim the streets” in areas where xenophobic violence has
been reported. Government’s security cluster announced that troops have been
deployed in Alexandra township—north of Johannesburg—and in some
areas of Kwa-Zulu Natal as police struggle to control the spate of violence
related to attacks on foreign nationals.
The attacks have so far claimed seven
Mozambique national Emmanuel Sithole was stabbed to death in
Alexandra on Saturday. The following day, the Sunday Times published
photographs of the attacks. On Monday, four people were arrested for Sithole’s
murder. Calm appeared to return to the township, but later on Sunday evening a
Zimbabwean couple were attacked in their home. The unnamed woman was shot in the
neck and leg and her spouse was shot in the neck.
As commander in chief of the armed forces, President Jacob Zuma, then
agreed—after a request by the police—for the army to be deployed. “We are
now reclaiming the authority of the state of the Republic of South Africa,”
said a stern Mapisa-Nqakula outside the Alexandra police station on
Tuesday. She would not say how many troops would be deployed to the volatile
areas. “You will not get information, the boots, the commands, the what what,
the time. It is operational and we never make operations public,”
Mapisa-Nqakula said, emphasising that it was “the right time to bring in the
The army’s first mandate, Mapisa-Nqakula said, would be to support
the police in restoring peace and order. “Even the deployment and planning will
be done under the guidance of the police,” she said. The security cluster
insisted that the intervention of the SANDF was not an indictment of the
police. David Mahlobo, acting minister of police and state security minister, said
that the rules between the police and the army have been clarified. “This is
not the first time we have worked together,” he said.
Besides reinforcing the police, the army is expected to assist
with medical help in camps which have been set up for displaced foreigners. It
remains unclear how long the army would be present in xenophobic hotspots.
Mapisa-Nqakula said Zuma would inform Parliament of the deployment within the
next week. According to clause three of section 201 of the Constitution, the president must inform Parliament of the details of a SANDF
deployment within seven days.
Mapisa-Nqakula said there may be an exterior force causing instability in the country. “Once the nation is divided then obviously it’s
easy for everyone to come in and cause confusion. Never allow that confusion.
South Africans, let us not be gullible and vulnerable to people who have they
own agendas of destroying the state and the government of the republic of SA—by people who want to create permanent instability in the country, who do not
Military analyst Helmoed Romer Heitman welcomed the deployment of
the defence force—which would not have any ties to the community—and would
work for a “short while to calm things down”.
Heitman said that while the army could stabilise the situation it could
not solve the problem. “Once things calm down, the issues must be solved on a
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