Troops in the hood

22 April 2015 - 02:17 By Graeme Hosken, Kingdom Mabuza, Shaun Smillie and Nivashni Nair

As the government ordered the deployment of soldiers to xenophobia hot spots yesterday, the sister of a brutally murdered Mozambican immigrant told how he was ''killed like a dog''. Shackled, four men who allegedly stabbed Emmanuel Sithole to death at the weekend smiled at their loved ones, even sharing a joke, as they were led to the holding cells of Johannesburg's Alexandra Magistrate's Court."They were laughing just like that as they walked away from killing my brother," wept Sithole's sister Thando Sithole."They hunted him down like a dog. They killed him like a dog in the street. And now they laugh.''Speaking after Mthinto Bhengu, Sizwe Mngomezulu, Ayanda Sibiya and Sifundi Mzimela appeared in court, Thando Sithole was unable to contain her rage."We want justice. We want them to get life. They must get life for taking a life. They must never taste freedom again."Sithole's younger sister, Jordina Masia, who was with Emmanuel when he was attacked, said she had pleaded with the men not to hurt him. "I begged. I cried. I asked them not to. They killed him because when they took his cigarettes without paying, Emmanuel confronted them, demanding payment. Just like that they killed him."A series of photographs in the Sunday Times chronicling the Mozambican trader's murder in Alexandra on Saturday continues to enrage South Africans.That rage, compounded by Monday night's shooting of a Zimbabwean couple in Alexandra, prompted the government to deploy hundreds of troops to the township and other xenophobia flashpoints, including in KwaZulu-Natal.Late last night, about 400 police, supported by heavily armed infantry soldiers in armoured vehicles, shut down large sections of Jeppestown, Johannesburg.The Wolhuter men's hostel was sealed off as rooms and sleeping occupants were searched for weapons used in attacks on foreigners in the area.Simultaneous operations are believed to have been carried out in other trouble spots in the province.At least seven people have been killed and hundreds displaced by the latest wave of anti-foreigner violence, triggering protests from African governments and threats that South African businesses on the continent will be shut down unless the violence is stopped.In Alexandra on Monday, the Zimbabwean couple was shot and critically and injured in their home by men pretending to be police officers. The attack took place hours after an Economic Freedom Fighters member was shot and wounded in a peace march in the township.Yesterday's deployment of soldiers and extra police means little to Sithole's family. "Will it bring our brother back? Will the soldiers and police put food on Emmanuel's children's table? Will they send them to school?" asked his brother, Philip Sithole.He said: "Emmanuel was here in 2008. He escaped the violence with his life then, but chose to stay because he thought South Africa and South Africans were good."We all knew South Africa was dangerous, but we still had hope. I have been here since 1996 and consider myself part of this country. I never thought that this country would turn on family."Hours after the four accused appeared in court, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula announced that troops would be deployed to curb the violence. "We are coming in because police need the military's support. The police requested assistance."She added: "Those who shot that couple will be found and arrested like we arrested those who stabbed Sithole. There's a perception that we are not protecting foreign nationals, but the state is reclaiming its authority." Warning those behind the attacks that the army would not treat them with kid gloves, she said: "They do not know how to control the crowd and do not use teargas."Gareth Newham of the Institute for Security Studies said the decision to send in the army was probably a political one. "Usually when the army is deployed it's basically because the police have lost control. However, the areas affected by the xenophobia are now largely quiet. What the government wants to do is send a strong message to the world and Africa that they are taking the situation seriously."Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said the deployment of troops was a "belated" show of force that left a bad impression on Africans because "when things are bad in Africa, the army is brought in."This [decision] is more of a show of force, but I also think that it is a pre-emptive strike against the real issues." Fikeni said the government should have acted sooner, sending troops and the police to hot spots while also anticipating potential places where violence might occur.The army deployment follows a meeting between King Goodwill Zwelithini and the SA Human Rights Commission. The commission is investigating Zwelithini for his comment last month that foreigners must pack their bags and leave South Africa.Gauteng Premier David Makhura, the first government official to label the violence xenophobic, said though the killing of Sithole appeared to be a robbery he did not want to draw any conclusions.''We want to assure the world and country that those involved in targeted attacks on foreigners will be arrested and prosecuted. Hot spots, like hostels, have been identified and will be dealt with. When this violence has stopped we must carry on campaigning against xenophobia. We must stop this once and for all."Additional reporting Olebogeng Molatlhwa..

There’s never been a more important time to support independent media.

From World War 1 to present-day cosmopolitan South Africa and beyond, the Sunday Times has been a pillar in covering the stories that matter to you.

For just R80 you can become a premium member (digital access) and support a publication that has played an important political and social role in South Africa for over a century of Sundays. You can cancel anytime.

Already subscribed? Sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.