In a week since the army was deployed to volatile areas affected by xenophobic unrest in South Africa, more than 200 illegal immigrants have been arrested and many of them may be deported.
The majority of undocumented migrants were apprehended in the Johannesburg suburb of Mayfair (144), 67 people were arrested in Hillbrow and eight in Pretoria.
Minister Jeff Radebe, who is heading the inter-ministerial committee on migration, told journalists on Tuesday that 265 suspects have been arrested and charged in relation to 150 cases of public violence around the country.
Since the deployment of the army last Tuesday, there has been three search and seizure operations – in Mayfair and Hillbrow, and at the Alexandra hostel.
“Government is determined to restore and maintain order within our communities. Operation Fiela-Reclaim is an operation to rid our country of illegal weapons, drug dens, prostitution rings and other illegal activities,” Radebe said.
Undocumented immigrants repatriated
He announced that government was working hard to ensure that 1 507 documented people awaiting repatriation would be sent home as soon as possible.
“We have thus far repatriated a total of 1 997 undocumented migrants from both KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng temporary shelters,” Radebe said.
The majority of the repatriated migrants were from Malawi, with 911 Malawi nationals sent home. Seven hundred and fifty three Zimbabweans were repatriated; as were 316 Mozambicans and 17 Tanzanians.
Radebe confirmed that an Ethiopian, a Zimbabwean, a Mozambican and a Bangladeshi were among those who lost their lives in the xenophobic violence.
Marcus Natas, an Ethiopian, was killed in a petrol bombing in Umlazi, southwest of Durban.
A Zimbabwean – only identified as Muvo – died after being attacked by a mob in Chatsworth.
Act of criminality
In Verulam, Sabastio Dava died following a mob attack while Bangladeshi national Shaofic Shaof Ul Alam died as a result of a gun shot in Plessislaer, KwaZulu-Natal.
“The preliminary investigation reveals that the death of Mozambican citizen Manuel Jossias, also known as Emmanuel Sithole, related to an act of criminality and is therefore not included,” Radebe said.
Three South Africans also lost their lives in the brutal attacks in KwaZulu-Natal.
Radebe noted that the department of international relations was at pains to mend relations with African diplomats.
“We are reaching out to reassure the global community that South Africa is stable and open for business,” he said.