Pretoria – Despite widespread outrage over Operation Fiela, the operation is making inroads in maintaining peace and order, while creating a conjunctive environment for all the people who are living in South Africa to participate freely in economic and social activities.
The operation, which was launched in April following the outbreak of attacks against people from other countries, has seen 3 914 arrested.
These include 1 650 foreign nationals who were arrested for not being documented as well as 2 264 South African citizens arrested in connection with various crimes.
The crimes included human trafficking, possession of explosives, drug possession, murder, robbery, rape as well as the possession of illegal firearms, housebreaking, and theft.
Updating the media on the work of the operation, on Friday, Minister in the Presidency responsible for Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation, Jeff Radebe, who is also the chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Migration, believes that government has succeeded in stabilising the communities which experienced violence in April.
“Through Operation Fiela we are claiming our communities so that our people can live in peace. We are creating law and order.
“We want to create a conjunctive environment for all the people who are living in South Africa so that they can participate freely in economic and social activities,” said Minister Radebe, who was flanked by other IMC member ministers.
These included Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Pravin Gordhan.
The operation, which is led by the South African Police Service (SAPS) and is supported by the provincial and municipality traffic departments and all the IMC member departments such as SANDF and Home Affairs, has seen search and seizures in several areas across the country such as Mayfair, Alexandra, Hillbrow and Sunnyside, among others.
Detailing the work of the operation, Minister Radebe said operation centres were established and additional law enforcement officials and resources were deployed on a 24-hour basis.
“Our intelligence service was also asked to investigate building and areas known to and taken over by criminal elements.”
A district disaster management system was also put in place as well as 24-hour call centre.
On emergency shelters and health services, the Department of Health together with other NGOs have been providing food to affected persons, while hospitals were placed on high alert to be able to help people who have been injured during these operations.
The Department of Home Affairs for its part is continuing with its plans to introduce the revised migration policy.
The new draft policy, which would deal with everything including refugees and economic migrants, is expected to be taken to Cabinet next month.
With regards to international cooperation, government led by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation has been engaging with foreign missions all over the world to ensure that the message of peace and South Africa’s government action plan is known.
Around issues of social development and reintegration of foreign nationals who were displaced during the attacks, the IMC said its at an advanced stage with only the Chatsworth shelter remaining open.
According to the IMC, it is due to be closed in about four days’ time.
Operation Sukuma Sakhe has also stepped in to forge ahead with reintegration of foreign nationals who were back into communities.
Operation Sukuma Sakhe - a Zulu phrase which means stand up and build - encourages social mobilisation between government and communities. It was first launched in KwaZulu-Natal.
Of the displaced foreign nationals, Minister Radebe said 5 645 foreign nationals have been voluntarily repatriated.
These include over 3 000 Malawians, 682 Mozambicans, 1 240 Zimbabweans and 17 Tanzanians.
Several civil society organisations have accused the operation of targeting foreign nationals and has called for a rethink of Operation Fiela.
However, Minister Nhleko reiterated that the operation was not targeting law abiding citizens or law abiding foreign nationals.
He also dispelled questions around the operation.
“There is no problem with the timing of the operation, coming so soon after the attacks on foreigners.”
This view was also shared by Minister Motsoaledi, who said the different campaigns within and outside the scope of Operation Fiela run by the department helps communities.
“We run special operations like Operation Fiela in our department. It is nothing special or new.”
He also dismissed suggestions that foreign nationals are not treated or given the same treatment at public health institutions.
“The reason we have a high number of people on ARVs is because we treat everyone in the country regardless of where they come from… except for diseases such as kidney transplants which are special cases.”
For her part, Minister Dlamini said the Ministry has learned many lessons from the operation.
“It is better because government is working together and not in silos,” she said.
In the past she said they have been called by citizens to intervene and to be tough on criminals.
“Now that we are talking action, we are being criticized,” she said, adding that government is going to take the same action against all who break the law, be it South Africans or foreign nationals.
The overall message of the IMC was that the operation has shown them that there are many integrated issues that needed to be addressed such as illegal migration which they said was a big issue around the world.
The committee was also quick to point that SA is a foreign national friendly country.
The driving force of illegal migration worldwide, Minister Radebe said, was in search for economic opportunities. He said most migrants in South Africa are economic migrants who are low skilled. This then means that they fight for job opportunities with the locals.
“Migration is a big issue throughout the world and the driving force behind that is the huge inequality between countries,” said Minister Gordon.
“Different arms of the state are working closely together to return areas to normality. This won't be achieved overnight though,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za