Government gets tough with launch of Operation Fiela


Karabo Ngoepe

JOHANNESBURG- Government is flexing its muscles and rolling up its sleeves in a bid to deal with the scourge of crime.

On Tuesday Police Minister Fikile Mbalula launched Operation Fiela on the backdrop of violent protests in Gauteng and the North West as communities seek to rid their areas of crime. Residents of Rustenburg have gone on the rampage targeting drug dens and brothels.

Kagiso residents have also followed in their footsteps and have shut down the area to combat crime. Police minister Fikile Mbalula on Tuesday said the operation would focus on Illicit drug trafficking and contraband, undocumented migrants, human trafficking and prostitution, Liquor Control, Second Hand Goods, hi-jacking and illegal occupation of buildings, illegal firearms and ammunition, defacing of historical statues and symbols and unlicensed businesses.

He said the protests were because of communities losing faith in the police.

“For operational reasons, other focus areas are not going to be revealed here today. As we have seen in recent days and weeks, there are several protests actions that have occurred due to communities losing faith in the police. Most of these protests are of genuine feelings and I want to state clearly that our people are correct,” he said.

Mbalula added that some police stations were not acting on tip-offs regarding drug dealers and brothels.

“It is clear that some police stations have relented and have accepted to co-exist with crime and live side by side with criminals. This is what our people are rejecting, and we urge police to work harder in cooperating with their communities. When communities report drug dens, illegal shebeens, brothels and human trafficking suspects – police are obliged to open a docket and investigate the matter officially with clear action is taken,” he said.

In Rustenburg, taxi drivers, operators and members of the community have gone on the rampage against drug dealers, prostitutes and criminals. At least eight houses were torched a few weeks back as community members attacked suspected drug dens and brothels.

A businessman, who identified himself as Nic from Uganda, said two of his guest houses were damaged.

“One guest house was vandalised on Monday, and this one was torched last night. There is a hydrant, and the fire brigade is a block away, less than 500 m, they did not assist. The fire brigade only came when the fire was about to spill over to the funeral parlour next door. On the other building at the corner there, fire brigade responded when the fire threatened the business below. It is like the waited for foreign-owned businesses to be burnt and only protected those owned by locals,” said Nic.

On Tuesday, 17 foreign nationals arrested for public violence and possession of dangerous weapons appeared in the Rustenburg Magistrate’s Court about the ongoing battle in the city. The Nigerian nationals were arrested in Rustenburg Noord on Sunday night in Rustenburg North for allegedly attacking locals in what was suspected to be a revenge attack.

The violence was thought to have been sparked by the death of a Nigerian man believed to be a drug lord, his body was found in a stream in Rustenburg on Friday.

In Kagiso, angry residents burned down five houses and a car wash after a woman had been kidnapped by a known member of the area. Protesters who gathered at the Kagiso police station near Krugersdorp were shot at with rubber bullets by police officers on Monday.

Mbalula urged officers to listen to the residents and to act on the information brought to their attention.

“I expect not to have a single suspected drug-den, illegal shebeen or any other public nuisance remaining unattended. We must refuse to co-exist with criminals. Operation Fiela aims to reinforce police work. The objectives of Operation Fiela for SAPS must, therefore, include stamping out of ‘No-go areas’ – There are some areas in our country that criminals have declared as ‘no-go areas’. This includes gangs and some undocumented foreign nationals segmented areas,” said Mbalula.