Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has deployed the defence force to Alexandra, in Johannesburg, and to parts of KwaZulu-Natal where xenophobic violence has escalated over the past two weeks. At least seven people have died, and thousands of people have been displaced following widespread attacks and looting.
The government has come under fire from both inside the country and on the continent for failing to crack down on the attacks.
At the weekend, the Sunday Times published graphic images of a Mozambican man, Emmanuel Sithole, being attacked on the streets of Alexandra. Sithole later succumbed to his wounds. On Monday it was reported that President Jacob Zuma had criticised the newspaper for “making us look bad”.
More than 60 people were killed in the xenophobic violence that swept the country in 2008.
Helmoed Heitman, an independent defense analyst, said that the deployment might lead to the perception that the situation is really deteriorating, when in fact it had not.
“The positive side is that the government is acting decisively in doing so; they haven’t waited for it to become a disaster and then deployed. The question on my mind, of course, is why can’t the police handle it?” Heitman said.
DA defence spokesperson David Maynier said the party supported the deployment of the defence force (SANDF), in co-operation with the police and in exceptional circumstances only. “With the xenophobic violence spiralling out of control we believe, therefore, that the deployment of the SANDF in co-operation with the SAPS is warranted. It’s now just incumbent on the president to inform Parliament about the deployment,” Maynier said.
The EFF, meanwhile, has rejected the move, saying, “With the wounds of Marikana still fresh, Mr Zuma still deploys the military without a clear purpose of what should be achieved.”
* This is a developing story and is being updated.