JOHANNESBURG - Hundreds of immigrants boarded crowded buses for Mozambique and other African nations yesterday, 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 increasingly 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 burned alive, stabbed, shot, or beaten to death.
In a bid to tamp down the 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 unhappy memories of South Africa's racist legacy. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Police Minister Charles Nqakula recalled the era when the white government used troops to quell anti-apartheid protests.
"One of the cries during that time was that we did not want the army in our townships," he said, adding its role now would be limited to supporting police.
The police made 28 arrests and seized drugs, firearms, and stolen property, police spokeswoman Sally de Beer said.