Government’s all-purpose anti-crime initiative, Operation Fiela, which started life primarily to end a bout of xenophobia, is ongoing but without the military.
Earlier this week Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said 9,968 arrests directly connected with the national crime fighting operation had been made between April 1 and June 30. Gauteng recorded the highest with 3 064 arrests, 1 314 in Limpopo, 1 264 in the Western Cape, 1 225 in Mpumalanga, 916 in KwaZulu-Natal and 881 in the North West.
The action, sanctioned by the Cabinet’s security cluster, started in April and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) was committed to providing assistance via an edict from President and Commander-in-Chief Jacob Zuma.
At this week’s briefing, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told a local news agency that soldiers were deployed from April 21 to June 30 to support police. She was present at the briefing as a member of government’s inter-ministerial committee on migration and she also revealed the involvement of the South African military machine in Operation Fiela first in April when she spoke at Alexandra police station in Johannesburg following an inspection in the wake of xenophobic attacks there.
At that time SANDF Joint Operations indicated 338 SANDF members had been deployed to the crime fighting initiative. This was made up of a single combat ready infantry company, an SA Military Health Service task team, a Military Police section, a helicopter (type not specified) and a 28 Squadron C-130BZ on standby at AFB Waterkloof to assist if and where needed.
“We (the Department of Defence) have not received a request for an extension of the soldiers’ deployment or even a directive from the Presidency to prepare for deployment,” she said on Monday.
Statistics released by Radebe show arrests for murder (10), illegal possession of firearms and ammunition (31), possession of drugs (585), drinking in public (181) possession of counterfeit goods and illegal cigarettes (47), burglary (40) among others as well as, in a reminder of the operation’s initial aim, 1,123 arrests of undocumented migrants.
Radebe said a team of police officers and officials from the Department of Home Affairs continued screening foreign nationals detained at centres including Lindela on Gauteng’s West Rand.
“In the period April to July a total of 6,781 individuals awaiting deportation were screened. Of those screened, 1,694 have been linked to crimes committed in South Africa. Among them some are wanted on warrants of arrest, others are due for court appearances and others in connection with ongoing investigations.
“The identified persons are wanted for crimes ranging from rape, housebreaking, robbery residential premises, common robbery and car-jacking, to cases of theft, assault, dealing in and possession of drugs. Some of the warrants of arrest date back to 2002.
“The deportation process of those linked to criminal activities has been suspended pending their appearance in court. If found guilty they will serve their sentences and be deported immediately upon release,” Radebe said adding just on 14,000 people who were in South Africa illegally were repatriated between April and July.
Although the IMC was pleased with the successes of Operation Fiela – it was concerned about the police killings, saying it was an attack on the foundation of democracy.
As many as 58 police officers have been murdered this year alone.
“Acts of violence, intimidation and destruction of property are criminal offences, and the police will arrest and prosecute those who commit such acts,” Radebe cautioned.
The IMC also called on South Africans to partner with law enforcement agencies in reclaiming public spaces from the hands of criminals. Criminals, Minister Radebe said, live amongst us in communities – as such people should stop turning a blind eye towards criminality.
“This is not the responsibility of government alone. All sectors of our society need to play their part in ridding our society of crime. We should all get involved in the establishment of street committees, neighbourhood watches and also join community policing forums.”