Soldiers to remain part of Operation Fiela

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Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe is “satisfied” the country’s law enforcement agencies, aided by soldiers, have brought peace and calm to communities affected by violent xenophobic attacks.

He was speaking in Pretoria during a briefing of the presidentially appointed inter-ministerial committee on migration. Also at the briefing was Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, one of the 14 Cabinet Ministers investigating various aspects of migration, including xenophobia and better border control.

President Jacob Zuma has approved the deployment of 338 soldiers until the end of June to assist the police in anti-xenophobia operations and his defence minister indicated they will remain in place for as long as police conduct the “kind of operations they are involved in”. She said the defence force, in the force of its landward arm the SA Army, was called in owing to a “grave situation” which has seen at least seven people killed.

The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) has indicated it will “unfortunately not indicate the exact units deployed” in support of police operations in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

What has been deployed is a single combat ready company (in all probability an infantry company consisting of three platoons and a headquarters), an SA Military Health Service task team, a Military Police section, one helicopter (type not specified) and a 28 Squadron C-130BZ aircraft will be on standby at AFB Waterkloof to assist where and if needed.

Mapisa-Nqakula told the briefing deploying troops was the “correct thing” under the circumstances.

To date soldiers have supported the police during raids on hostels in the Johannesburg suburbs of Jeppe and Alexandra. They have also been seen working alongside police in stop and search patrols in the Johannesburg CBD, Hillbrow and Mayfair.

Radebe said the tackling criminality side of the inter-ministerial committee’s work had been named Operation Fiela –Reclaim (“fiela” is the Sesotho word for “sweep”).
“The operation is to rid our country of illegal weapons, drug dens, prostitution rings and other illegal activities,” he told the briefing adding it was a multi-disciplinary, inter-departmental one.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) is the lead agency in the operation and is supported by the provincial and municipality traffic departments and all the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) member departments. The IMC on Migration was appointed by President Jacob Zuma to deal with the underlying causes of the tensions between communities and foreign nationals.

To date the operation has seen 265 suspects arrested and charged with public violence, 423 suspects sought in connection with other crimes have been traced and 165 undocumented migrants have been arrested and they are in the process of being deported to their respective countries.

Search and seizure operations conducted in Mayfair on Freedom Day saw 144 illegal immigrants arrested.

The successes of the operation also includes the confiscation of 80 small bank bags filled with dagga and two air rifles; the arrest of one suspect for illegally dealing in liquor and the arrest of one suspect for being in possession of a South African National Defence Force uniform.