Army cordons off centre

2015-05-19 06:00
Security forces, including soldiers, the police, SARS and immigration officers, joined forces for a cordon-and-search operation in Town Centre on Thursday.

Samantha Lee

Security forces, including soldiers, the police, SARS and immigration officers, joined forces for a cordon-and-search operation in Town Centre on Thursday. PHOTO: Samantha Lee

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Hundreds of pairs of combat boots, rifles at hand, dozens of arrests and more than R1m worth of illegal goods confiscated came to the fore in a massive operation with combined forces.

Soldiers were accompanied by military police, law enforcement, metro police, provincial traffic services, immigration enforcement, customs officials and provincial police joined forces to execute operation Fiyela at the Town Centre on Thursday from 10:00 to 18:00.

Mitchell’s Plain police station commander Brigadier Cass Goolam says the operation was planned above station-level.

“We were informed of the operation but we knew very few details. This is a national-level operation and the station was not involved in the planning of the operation,” he says.

Operation Fiyela is aimed at rooting out crime at hotspots, says Goolam. The operation has already been carried out in Gauteng, Durban, Bellville and now at the Town Centre.

Goolam says he welcomes the initiative.

“More than 10 000 people use the Town Centre every day. It is a hub and targeted by criminal elements. We have been pressurised by the community following an outcry for action. By consolidating forces we will make an impact,” he says.

Residents who frequent the centre had mixed feelings about the operation.

A trader who has been trading in the centre for three decades says he is happy with the police visibility.

“My stall is based in a hotspot; this operation is an inconvenience but we must abide by the law. I am happy with the operation because if crime continues we will not have any more business,” he says.

Jasmine Harris of the Informal Traders Association says the operation is affecting business.

“People can’t move freely and we are losing business but we need this more often,” Harris says. Bonita Robyn agrees.

“I work at the Town Centre and there are many robberies and a lot of crime. We do not feel safe so they should do this more often. They should increase visibility and patrols at night when we walk to our transport,” she says.

Goolam agrees that crime is on the rise in the centre.

“Robberies and gang elements at the taxi rank are the biggest issues and this is aimed at tackling that,” he says.

Operation Fiyela is a cordon-and-search operation that focuses on immigration enforcement, illegal goods, crime and general visibility in hotspots.

This saw all entrances and exits to the entire centre manned by soldiers. Commuters and patrons were diverted to solitary points to enter and exit the mall.

Here they would be searched for weapons, drugs and other contraband.

Much to the frustration of some.

Riefkah Windvoegel says the extent of the operation was unnecessary.

“Use the army for the drug lords. I am frustrated because I am coming here all the years and now I can’t move. It took me four hours to do my shopping when it would take me only one hour other days. I must be searched where ever I go. I am not a criminal,” she says.

Mitchell’s Plain police spokesperson Sergeant Jerome Voegt says they had no control over the extent of the operation and that the rules applied to everyone without exceptions. V

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