Justice, crime and prevention cluster to launch Operation Fiela Two
January 22, 2018
Johannesburg, South Africa: Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) says it is greatly concerned about the announcement made by the justice, crime and prevention cluster on Friday (January 19, 2018) to launch Operation Fiela Two.
Operation Fiela (which means sweep in Sesotho) was launched after a series of xenophobic attacks in KwaZulu-Natal and some parts of Gauteng. It is an ongoing joint operation by the South African Police Service (SAPS) along with other government departments aimed at ridding the country of illegal weapons, drug dens, prostitution rings and other illegal activities. The first operation was initiated at the Fatti’s Mansions building in Johannesburg.
The South African National Defence Force was also involved in a support role during the first three months of the operation, from April 21 to June 30, 2015. However, after July 2015, the military declined to continue.
According to LHR Operation Fiela One created an environment of fear and saw widespread human rights abuses by the police, military and immigration officials, and the second phase of the operation would be a repeat of the “wide net cast” during Fiela One.
“LHR fears that Operation Fiela Two will simply be a repeat of the wide net cast during Fiela One, using foreign nationals as scapegoats for crime in the inner city and further perpetuating xenophobic attitudes and hostilities,” the LHR said in a statement.
The organisation added they had serious concerns with the use of the military to arrest people who are undocumented.
“LHR has serious concerns with use of the military to arrest people who are undocumented. This operation saw the arrest and detention of over 200 people and required two urgent court orders before lawyers were allowed to consult with those arrested,” said the LHR.
“Throughout the operation non-nationals were particularly targeted by the state – at a time shortly after the spate of violent xenophobic attacks in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Thus, the operation propagated the perception that predominantly black foreigners are criminals, despite ample evidence to the contrary,” added the organisation.
LHR brought a high court application to challenge the authorisation for the operation at the Fatti’s Mansions in Johannesburg, but the court dismissed the application for lack of urgency.
Research done by the organisation also showed that the arrests that were made were arbitrary and there was also widespread damage to property.
The organisation added that while effective policing is a right of South African's, targeting non-nationals was not an effective way of dealing with crime and this type of action will only create another environment where xenophobia and violence can rear its head.
“The wording of the government announcement that Fiela Two will address 'the safety concerns of the citizens of the country' echoes the same xenophobic and exclusionary process which took place in 2015. It is these sentiments and processes which perpetuate the belief that undocumented people are the cause of crime, fueling the hatred that is witnessed in violence targeting black foreign nationals,” read the statement.
Working with community leaders
LHR asserted although crime is a serious problem which affects people living in under-resourced and impoverished communities, the approach of random arbitrary military style operations will not deal with the imbalance of policing in poor communities.
The organisation called on the government to consult with stakeholders in the communities to create more effective relationships with the police.
“Through equal policing and good crime intelligence gathering, everyone can contribute to building safe and peaceful communities.
“We need to build a society where law enforcement and crime prevention does not target the poorest and most vulnerable, but addresses all forms of crime and does so in an equitable and consistent manner and that respects the human rights and human dignity of all,” said the LHR.