Police‚ metro cops army and home affairs officials descended on the Thembelihle informal settlement near Lenasia on Thursday morning.
Police spokesperson Lieutenant Kay Makhubela‚ who said Thembelihle had been identified as a hotspot for violent crimes‚ told RDM News Wire that‚ at the time of publication‚ more than 180 people‚ including illegal immigrants‚ had been taken into custody.
“It’s more than that ‚ much more‚ and we expect to make many more arrests for various crimes during the course of the day‚” said Makhubela. “We will be here the whole day.”
A media briefing with arrest statistics is expected to held later on Thursday.
The military was recently drafted in to assist the police in quelling the xenophobic violence in the townships‚ and restoring peace.
But no attacks on foreign nationals had been reported in Thembelihle during the recent xenophobic outbreak‚ although the area had last month been the site of a spate of violent service delivery protests.
Dozen of arrests were made at the time after community buildings and a police station were torched.
Thursday’s raid comes two days after the release of a statement by the Gauteng provincial government trumpeting “the approval and formal registration of Thembelihle as a housing project”.
“Thembelihle will now receive dedicated government support‚ provision of services including housing and related infrastructure such as water and electricity‚” the statement read.
“The registration of Thembelihle as a housing project is a key milestone in the history of Thembelihle‚” human settlements MEC Jacob Mamabolo said.
“Although we are rendering some services to enable residents to meet their daily needs‚ it has become imperative to plan better and to manage the informal settlement as a formal project because of the growing needs‚ demands and challenges in the area.”
Thursday’s raids come hours after president Jacob Zuma reportedly won the support of his Southern African Development Community (SADC) counterparts on Wednesday for his government’s handling of recent attacks on foreign migrants.
According to Business Day‚ SADC executive secretary Dr Stergomena Tax said Zuma had briefed regional leaders about the attacks‚ and “his government’s efforts to curb the violence‚ including sending in the military to assist the police in quelling the xenophobic violence in the townships affected”.
This‚ however‚ was in contrast to Thursday’s edition of Mail & Guardian‚ which reported that a “gatvol” Zuma and his Cabinet’s “new hardened attitude” towards illegal immigrants is: “don’t kill them but deport them”.
“Searches and deportations of illegal immigrants are likely to be a daily occurrence and government sources say the expected costs justify the end‚” the newspaper reported‚ adding that the clampdown on illegal immigrations was “triggered largely by the diplomatic fallout between SA and some African countries”.