April 21, 2015 / 11:25 AM / in 2 years

South Africa sends soldiers to anti-immigrant hotspots

Demonstrators hold placards outside a court in Johannesburg's Alexandra township as four men appeared in court for the killing of a Mozambican man, April 21, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa sent soldiers on Tuesday to help stop anti-immigrant violence in areas of Durban and Johannesburg where at least seven people have been killed in the past three weeks.

South Africa has been criticized by governments, including China, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, for failing to protect foreigners as armed mobs were shown on TV looting immigrant-owned shops and front-page photographs in a Sunday newspaper showed a Mozambican man being beaten and stabbed to death in broad daylight.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said a Zimbabwean couple were shot in the Johannesburg shanty town of Alexandra on Monday night but survived.

Briefing reporters on the deployment of troops to Alexandra and to the coastal town of Durban, where the violence started, she said: “There will be those who will be critical of this decision but the vulnerable will appreciate it.”

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini defended himself on Monday against claims that previous comments he made about foreigners sparked the anti-immigrant attacks.

On Tuesday, four men, aged between 18 and 22 years old, were charged in Alexandra’s Magistrates Court with the murder and robbery of the Mozambican man, Emmanuel Sithole, a street vendor in the low-income area.

The men covered their heads with hoodies when they were brought into the court. They are set to appear again on May 4.

Outside the court, protesters picketed and locals gathered.

“It’s not right this thing, they shouldn’t have killed him,” said Fulufhelo Ravhura, a 37-year-old Alexandra resident. “That guy was selling sweets and cigarettes, how was he stealing anyone’s job?”

Periodic outbreaks of anti-immigrant violence have been blamed on high unemployment, which is officially around 25 percent although economists say is much higher, widespread poverty and vast wealth gap.

Hundreds of Malawians marched on South Africa’s High Commission in the capital Lilongwe on Tuesday, demanding charges be laid against King Zwelithini amid calls for a boycott of South African businesses.

Malawi’s Information Minister, Kondwani Nankhumwa, said on Monday two Malawians were killed in the attacks and that efforts were under way to repatriate about 3,000 of its nationals.

In Zambia, two private commercial radio stations have stopped playing South African music.

In 2008, South African troops helped to end violence after more than 60 foreigners were killed in similar unrest as locals vented frustrations, particularly a lack of jobs.

Additional reporting by Joe Brock and Mfuneko Toyana in Johannesburg, Frank Phiri in Blantyre and Chris Mfula in Lusaka; Editing by James Macharia and

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