Xenophobia: army, cops fire first big salvo

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Johannesburg - There was no warning. Many were asleep, others preparing to sleep. Then, suddenly, a contingent of more than 200 soldiers and police officers were there, the police banging on doors and bursting into packed rooms.
On Tuesday night, just after 10pm, the SAPS and the SANDF conducted a joint raid at the Wolhuter men’s hostel in Jeppestown which saw them turning the tables on hostel dwellers in a bid to restore law and order to the troubled area.
The hostel was raided room by room. Residents were marched out of their rooms while they were still in their underwear. Although the heavily armed policemen were firm, they were not abusive towards the men, who in turn were not volatile during the raid.
The operation was carried out in the presence of high-ranking officials, including national police commissioner Riah Phiyega.
The police arrested 11 people.
Gauteng police spokesman Lieutenant Kay Makhubela told The Star on Wednesday morning that several bags of dagga and an assortment of stolen property had been found.
He could not say exactly what was confiscated.
“The property appears to have been stolen from supermarkets and hardware shops,” he said. “The raids will be conducted from time to time when hotspots are identified.”
Some of the hostel dwellers are thought to have participated in xenophobic attacks that have swept through parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
Seven people, including a teenager, have died in the violence and more than 300 people arrested.
The police directed the well-organised raid while the soldiers supervised from a distance and maintained order outside the building.
However, the men in surrounding hostels were displeased with the disturbances and shouted at the media trying to take pictures of them.
Earlier on Tuesday night, hostel dwellers threatened a Star photographer and vowed to take on journalists, blaming them for the arrest of Mozambican street hawker Emmanuel Sithole’s killers in Alexandra at the weekend.
Phiyega said: “We will be going from province to province. We will have incessant operations such as this one. We will cordon off and search.”
But the SANDF would not say where else in the country the army would be deployed.
SANDF spokesman General Xolani Mabanga said on Wednesday morning: “I am not in a position to tell you where they will be deployed from now.”
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, accompanied by State Security Minister David Mahlobo, on Tuesday announced the deployment of the army during a visit to Alexandra.
Sithole and a Zimbabwean couple are believed to be the latest victims of xenophobic violence. The 33-year-old man and his 22-year-old girlfriend were shot and wounded at their house on 19th Avenue on Monday night.
But the hustle and bustle of Alexandra life continued as normal on Wednesday morning. Although there were fears among foreigners, a number of foreign-owned shops opened for business.
David* an Ethiopian spaza shop owner said he felt safe knowing the army was coming.
Local resident Elizabeth*, who owns the building where David has his shop, said: “I am protective of foreigners here. They do nothing wrong. They help us.
“I told all the foreigners who work in this street that if the hostel men come, they must phone me; I’ll call the police.”
Another local resident, Thembi* said she has a close relationship with Zimbabweans, Malawians and Ethiopians living in the area. “We are like mother and son,” she said pointing towards David.
Elizabeth told The Star it was the foreign-owned spaza shops that were willing to give them food and bread on credit.
“He (David) always says I can take and I’ll pay when I can,” she said.
* Not their real names.
The Star

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