The South African army said Tuesday it plans to deploy troops to parts of Johannesburg to stifle the growing xenophobic violence that has left at least seven people dead in the last several weeks, according to media reports. Anti-immigrant attacks emerged in the coastal city of Durban at the end of March and have since spread to the country’s largest commercial city of Johannesburg.
“We come in as the last resort, the army will serve as a deterrent against the crime that we see,” South African Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told Agence France-Presse Tuesday.
The South African National Defense Force is expected to arrive in the township of Alexandra by 6 p.m. local time Tuesday. Mapisa-Nqakula said vital institutions such as schools and hospitals will soon be affected if the xenophobic attacks continue unabated. The soldiers will work together with police to take “back the authority” of the state, she said. “Those people are vulnerable. We are not here to take over the job of police,” Mapisa-Nqakula told South Africa’s Eyewitness News.
The decision to deploy forces comes after another foreign couple was attacked by South African locals last night in Alexandra. Mapisa-Nqakula didn’t specify how many soldiers would be deployed but said a small group of people are responsible for the violence, Eyewitness News in Johannesburg reported Tuesday.
The attackers have targeted African migrants whom locals accuse of taking away their jobs and eliminating business. It’s the deadliest spread of xenophobic violence in South Africa since 2008 when at least 67 people were killed, Reuters said.