Defence minister: Police were overwhelmed with #xenophobicattacks

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula insists the army is playing a supportive role in xenophobic hotspots.

Calm was restored in Alexander this morning following days of violent attacks on foreign nationals in the area. Picture: Aurelie Kalenga/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Wednesday said police were overwhelmed and that's why the army was roped in to help in xenophobia hot spots.

Mapisa-Nqakula announced yesterday that the defence force would be supporting the police with operations.

The minister insists this is a "supportive role" and people's rights will not be violated.

"And it is for that reason that we decided in our Constitution we will make sure that the South African National Defence Force has absolutely no role to play internally here. However, if the country is in such a situation, that we require a reinforcement for the police, if only to service a deterrent."

Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) Ambassador to South Africa says this country needs to address deep rooted issues that led to the recent xenophobic attacks in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

A panel of experts is discussing the recent developments in Sandton today.

Bene M'Poko says migration problems are not unique to this country.

"I believe the South African government has the capacity to deal with those issues, that we have to work together. It's not just an issue of South Africa, we need to work together, and we need to involve the community leaders."

The African National Congress' Deputy Secretary-General, Jessie Duarte says word on the ground is that the attacks have stopped.

"From what we discovered on the ground when we speak to many people, they say those people who did that are criminals we know know them. We know that they are doing this because that's what they do. It is sad for our country that this has happened again."

WATCH: Safety of foreigners now in the hands of the military


An Ethiopian national has described to Eyewitness News how he was attacked and robbed outside his shop in Mamelodi, Pretoria this morning.

He says he's too frightened to call the police but is considering approaching his country's embassy after four armed men assaulted him and told him to go back to his country.

The Ethiopian has asked not be named.

He says he came to South Africa 10 years ago looking for a better life but is now forced to close his shop.

"I'm afraid because he said I must go back to my country and also said he would come back with guns."

Questions continue to be raised about whether it was necessary for the defence force to be deployed to xenophobic hot spots with concerns about possible human rights violations.

The defence minister insists it was the right decision given that the army will only be offering a supportive role to the police.

She says the police will carry out their operations - as they did last night - and the defence force will monitor and assist.

Defence analyst Helmoed Hietman says there are pros and cons to the deployment.

"The success factor lies in having a body of disciplined people who know how to do their job. The problem is they are not fully trained on crowd control."