The SA National Defence Union (Sandu) this week “rejected” soldiers working alongside police in the Western Cape, where they are finding and arresting foreigners in South Africa illegally.
Pikkie Greeff, national secretary of the military trade union, late last month said Sandu had “no objection” to soldiers being deployed internally to assist police in bringing an end to xenophobic violence. However, Greeff said this week the deployment of soldiers alongside police in Bellville, Western Cape, was “not in line with the notice given by the President to Parliament three weeks ago”.
The deployment of 338 soldiers to support police was announced by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in Alexandria on April 21. This was confirmed by President Jacob Zuma on April 24. A statement issued by the Presidency noted: “he (Zuma) had employed 338 members of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to assist the SA Police Service (SAPS) to maintain law and order in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and any other area of South Africa as the need arises”.
“Seeking out illegal immigrants in large scale search and arrest operations was never the purpose of the deployment. This, in fact, remains the work of the police,” Greeff said, adding if Zuma had operations such as those conducted in Bellville in mind he should have stated this in his Parliamentary notice.
“Sandu has grave reservations about the legality of the Bellville operations and will be laying an official complaint with the Office of the Public Protector,” he said.
Since soldiers were deployed to support police in anti-xenophobic operations, close to 900 arrests have been made in seven provinces. Operation Fiela, as it has been dubbed, will be supported by the SANDF until the end of June in terms of the Presidential notification.
The cost of the deployment, according to the Presidency, is R4.2 million. The military is supporting police and has been seen during raids on hostels in two Johannesburg suburbs as well as assisting police in stop and search taskings in the Johannesburg CBD and the city’s Hillbrow and Mayfair suburbs.