MINISTERS DISCUSS USING ARMY TO QUELL VIOLENCE

Business Day, 20 May 2008

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As the xenophobia death toll mounted in Gauteng yesterday, African National Congress (ANC) officials met the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and senior cabinet ministers. Referring to claims that IFP supporters had been accused of inciting violence, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said: “If you look into the … flashpoints, there are structures of the IFP. We agreed that their structures must talk to our structures.... There is no room for mudslinging, we must deal with the problem on the ground.” Mantashe said calls for military deployment were discussed with security cluster ministers. Yesterday’s meeting — which included the safety and security, intelligence and home affairs ministers — decided that such a measure could not be “ruled out”. If the army intervened, it would be in support of police efforts, Mantashe said. The ANC said yesterday it would deploy its senior leaders to play a “visible” role to help deal with the crisis. A coalition of human rights groups — including the Human Rights Commission, the Independent Electoral Commission, the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) and the public protector — described the crisis as a “national emergency”, and said the government should “consider whether deployment of the military is not necessary at this stage.” The coalition also called for a moratorium on arrests and deportations of victims of violence, regardless of their legal status. If the army was deployed it “must be done within clearly controlled measures to stem the violence”, the group said. The army has not been used in such a context since the advent of democracy in 1994. The constitution says it is the defence force’s job to “defend and protect the republic, its territorial integrity and its people.” The task of the police force, according to the constitution, is to “prevent, combat and investigate crime, to maintain public order, to protect and secure the inhabitants of the republic and their property, and to uphold and enforce the law”. CGE Equality chairwoman Nomboniso Gasa said that there was “political manipulation of the situation.” Gasa said that it was not surprising the violence was happening the year before the general election.