(By Estera Popowska)
Following a wave of xenophobic attacks in South Africa’s two cities that have killed at least seven people, South Africa’s defense minister said Tuesday that the government will deploy military personnel to prevent further violence and criminality.
According to press reports, South Africa's defense minister announced that soldiers will join with police to stop the xenophobic attacks. This announcement comes after weeks of violence in impoverished areas of Johannesburg and Durban.
Since the outbreak of the xenophobic attacks earlier this month, hundreds of African immigrants have been displaced while several others have been arrested. South African Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula reportedly described the situation as a “crisis.”
According to VOA, South Africa’s National Defense Force spokesman Brig. Gen. Xolani Mabanga declined to give details of the military operation. He did not say how many personnel would be involved, what the operation would entail or even where exactly they would go, though he said they would be sent into “hotspots.” Those are likely to include the Johannesburg township of Alexandra and the impoverished settlement of Isipingo near the coastal city of Durban.
“The plan is to provide the necessary support as may be required or requested by the South African Police Service in areas where the South African Police Service thinks or deems it necessary that they need the assistance and support from the South African National Defense Force,” he explained.
Mabanga stressed that the national defense forces were requested by police authorities, and that they have previously responded to calls for backup, such as during the last round of national elections in 2014.
He also offered a message of encouragement to everyone in South Africa -- wherever they come from. “I would say to them that I think their safety and security is of concern to the South African National Defense Force,”Mabanga reportedly said.
VOA reported that Immigrants from African nations including Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, Somalia and Zimbabwe have been among the targets of the attacks. Many have sought temporary shelter at makeshift camps, while some African embassies say they are seeing a steady stream of citizens trying to return home (VOA)