‘Unlawfully arrested’ migrants arrested in Joburg CBD to get assistance

Law enforcement officers raid for counterfeit goods in Johannesburg, 7 August 2019, and uncovered an arms cache that included AK47 and other assault rifles. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

The African Diaspora Forum said yesterday it would assist migrants who were “unlawfully arrested” during the South African Police Service (SAPS) joint operation in Johannesburg CBD this week.

SAPS denied they had made any arrests and had “taken them in” for processing of their immigration and criminal record status.

Vusumuzi Sibanda, chairperson of the forum which gives representation to African migrant communities in SA, said they had been approached by 15 to 20 people who had allegedly been “unlawfully arrested and placed in detention after the unlawful raids without possession of a warrant”.

He said the organisation was expecting the number to rise as those affected were released by the police, especially shop owners whose shops had been damaged and those arrested for not having documents.

“From what we are told, they were made to sign a paper that stated they attacked the police. They were also arrested on the grounds they were not in possession of their documents, when a good number of them were,” Sibanda said.

He added that while some were eager to retaliate through the law system, others were fearful to take action and did not want a “head-on collision” with the state.

Leading a joint operation with the department of home affairs and the South African Revenue Service (Sars) this past week, SAPS returned to the Johannesburg central business district to check the documentation of foreign nationals and raid shops stocking counterfeit products.

It said it was an operation to “reassert the authority of the state”.

The operation came after scores of protesters attacked police vehicles after blocking them from entering a building they wanted to search.

At the time, Joburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) spokesperson Wayne Minnaar said police had to fire rubber bullets to disperse a violent crowd of protesters who attacked officers. Minnaar added four JMPD vehicles were damaged and confirmed a claim the attackers were foreign nationals.

In a statement, SAPS confirmed it had “taken in” more than 560 “undocumented foreign nationals” for processing.

Brigadier Mathapelo Pieters said “their status in the country will be determined by the department of home affairs, while the local criminal record centre from the SAPS will determine criminal records”.

In addition to “taking in” foreign nationals, the police reported they had seized a number of unlicensed firearms which would be “subjected to ballistic testing to determine possible usage in the commission of crime”.

A large amount of counterfeit goods, including clothing and sneakers, from various buildings were also confiscated.

These acts were praise by Police Minister Bheki Cele.

“Bravo to the SAPS. We remain resolute of the capabilities of our men and women in blue. “We told the nation we will continue to stamp the authority of the state. We cannot have parallel governance with criminals, therefore we will continue to squeeze the space for criminals to zero, regardless of race, gender or nationality,” Cele said.

Chisom Jenniffer Okoye / The Citizen