Operation Fiela will intensify

11 June 2015

 Opinion piece published in The Star by Acting Cabinet Spokesperson Phumla Williams

Over the past few weeks communities all over South Africa have been made safer because of the work of various law enforcement agencies, including the army and the police, during Operation Fiela.

We have also noted the intense debates on Operation Fiela. South Africa is a democratic country which gives freedom to all to express their views. However, the government believes that our communities are crying out for intensive action against crime and criminality.  We will, therefore, continue to do everything in our power to stop criminals in our streets, residential areas, places of entertainment and our public spaces.

As many people know, Operation Fiela is an initiative to rid our country of illegal weapons, drug dens, prostitution rings and other illegal activities. This operation is a multi-disciplinary and interdepartmental operation. Fiela forms part of our overall strategy to ensure that all people in South Africa are and feel safe.

As the government, we are duty-bound to tackle crime, lawlessness, impunity, intolerance and disregard for the rule of law. There have been many recent incidents that are not in keeping with our Constitutional democracy and the rule of law. This has manifested itself in community protests, industrial action in a number of sectors, land invasions, defacing of public symbols and violence against foreigners.

The government cannot and will not turn a blind eye to acts of criminality. It will continue to act decisively and swiftly to restore law and order. Our actions form part of a plan to give the government space to address socio-economic and security challenges in a structured and co-ordinated manner. Operation Fiela will, therefore, be intensified and expanded in the coming weeks and months.

We also wish to dispel the notion that the operation is targeting foreign nationals in our country. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the operation contributes to our efforts to document all people in South Africa. We will not stop until our country is safer for all, including foreigners. South Africa is a democratic country that is governed by laws and all people in our country have to comply with them.

The government will never authorise actions that are contrary to our Constitution and the laws of the country. We are signatory to international conventions that guide our actions. Ensuring the rights of individuals and groups is an essential part of any operation undertaken.

Those who have accused us of deviating from the Constitution and the Bill of Rights should know that this government was at the forefront of the adoption of our constitution in 1996. The government will crack down on criminal and unruly elements in society. Law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear from our operations which are targeted at crime and criminals.

Since the start of our operations, many individuals have been arrested for illicit drugs, illegal firearms, common assault and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, among other offences.  These are the people who terrorise our communities and public spaces and make life unbearable. In most instances, the co-operation of communities has assisted law enforcement agencies in carry out their work.

Operation Fiela will continue until we have secured a safer environment. We also want to reiterate that our operations are intelligence driven and will target areas, buildings and spaces that are known to be frequented by criminals. To this end, we call on community members to continue partnering with law enforcement officers in making our country safer for all. Together we can ensure that criminal elements among us have no place to hide.

South Africa has come a long way since 1994. Together we fought to build a society that is free from racial oppression and unjust laws. Today our country is a model of the world and we have one of the most progressive constitutions in the world. We have a working multiparty democracy. Our economy is vibrant and our stock market is the 18th largest in the world. We dare not allow criminals to tarnish the image of our country and reverse the gains we have made as a nation.

The actions of criminal and unruly elements must not be allowed to deprive South Africans of their right to work and live freely. We will ensure that peace-loving and law-abiding South Africans can go about their daily lives without fear.