The deployment of the army to quell the xenophobic violence that has left seven people dead was happening at “just the right time”, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Tuesday.
“It’s not too late at all, precisely because we are not a military state,” she said, replying to a question about the timing.
“This is just the right time. None of the South African people can accuse of us of having jumped in without analysing the situation, starting to take over from the police… none of the South Africans can do that.”
She said the SA National Defence Force would wait until the police felt they needed their help, starting in the Johannesburg township of Alexandra where the seventh person, Mozambican national Emmanuel Sithole, was killed at the weekend.
Wherever the police did an assessment and required more help from the army, the SANDF would deploy more soldiers.
A clear mandate
Mapisa-Nqakula defended the decision to only send troops in now, after seven people had already been killed.
“Seven is a big number. Just one life lost… that person belongs to a family… [but] if you are telling me there was a massacre out there now and the defence force was not there, then I would say – totally irresponsible on the side of the State.
“But we are talking here about seven people… to jump in, there’s a clear mandate for the police, there’s a clear mandate for the defence force.
“They [the police] must tell us, now you need to come in, we need assistance…
“The army will not take the lead, it is the police who must provide the leadership.
“It’s not about the protection of the police, it’s about the protection of everybody.”
State Security Minister David Mahlobo said it was a joint decision.
“The police have done their best,” he said, but now they had requested assistance in volatile areas. News24