JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Hundreds of immigrants boarded crowded buses yesterday for Mozambique and other African nations, passing bags and even babies through the windows in a rush to flee violent attacks against outsiders that have left 42 dead.
But many other immigrants - drawn to South Africa by hopes of a better life - say they have nowhere to run despite violence that has forced more than 25,000 from their homes.
South Africa's poorest have come to blame migrants from Zimbabwe and other African countries for domestic problems such as crime and unemployment. The frustration boiled over two weeks ago, when mobs tore through the slums of Johannesburg, leaving foreign victims stabbed, shot, beaten to death or burned alive.
To tamp down violence, South Africa put soldiers on the streets of its commercial hub yesterday - the first time since the end of apartheid that the military has been deployed in Johannesburg.
The milestone has dredged up memories of South Africa's racist legacy. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula recalled the era when the white government used troops to quell antiapartheid protests.
"One of the cries during that time was that we did not want the army in our townships," he said, adding that its role now would be limited to supporting police.
Before dawn, infantry battalion soldiers set up a cordon as police made swoops on three downtown hostels whose residents were allegedly involved in inciting violence. Police made 28 arrests and seized drugs, firearms and stolen property, spokeswoman Sally de Beer said.
The violence has started to subside, but foreigners in South Africa remain wary.
The number sheltering at police stations, churches, and makeshift camps for those displaced by the violence has swelled to 25,000, and officials were setting up tent cities, a sign the crisis was not expected to end soon.
Two burned bodies were found in the Ramaphosa slum outside Johannesburg where mobs set shacks on fire. Incidents of anti-immigrant violence also were reported elsewhere in the country.
Dzidzah Masiiwa, a Zimbabwean painter, said he spent three nights in the relative sanctuary of the police station in the township of Alexandra, where the violence began. He reluctantly returned to his shack Wednesday but said he did not feel safe.
"It's scary," he said. "I think maybe they will come back to attack me."
Despite Threats, Tsvangirai Ready to Return to Zimbabwe
, the Zimbabwean opposition leader, said yesterday that he would return home tomorrow despite fears of a possible assassination attempt.
the announcement to several hundred Zimbabweans seeking protection at a Johannesburg police station after a wave of attacks on foreigners in South Africa. They greeted him with chants of "Tsvangirai is No. 1!"
a June 27 runoff against President Robert Mugabe. He won more votes than Mugabe in the March 29 presidential election, but not the simple majority needed to avert a second round.
, Tsvangirai has spent most of his time outside Zimbabwe. He had planned to return last Saturday but delayed the trip after his party said he was the target of a military assassination plot.
- Associated Press