Operation Fiela – An epic failure, again!

The same scenario played out in April last year when a similar operation was conducted and still, GMM found it necessary not to learn from their failed mistakes.

The Bulletin Newspaper
Shereen Jacobs shows where they leveled concrete. She is one of the homeless woman.

Operation *Fiela, aimed at removing the homeless, was an epic failure once again and Govan Mbeki Municipality blatantly lied to the community that the homeless has an option for shelter.
The operation took place on 22 March when GMM Compliance and Law Enforcement, GMM Waste Management, GMM Traffic Department, Home Affairs and SAPS took even the last food from homeless people living on Secunda streets in the hope that taking their possessions will make them look for another town to squat.
But it didn’t help as the homeless didn’t leave and they still don’t have accommodation. The only thing that happened is that some of them somehow found new possessions. The same scenario played out in April last year when a similar operation was conducted and still, GMM found it necessary not to learn from their failed mistakes.
GMM promised that the homeless will be given a choice if they want to go to God’s Fire ministries church for help. Unfortunately, it looks like those were only empty promises and blatant lies to either sooth their conscience or to keep the community calm. “We went there the same day and the pastor told us he cannot accommodate us even for one hour,” a man only known as Survivor, said. The pastors of the church, Mazwi and Beauty Tshabalala, could not be reached for comment and when The Bulletin visited the church to see what the situation is like, our reporter got chased away, but only after Noloyiso Solwandle, who works at the church, spoke to us for a while.
“It has been a long time now that we don’t accommodate the homeless anymore because they go to the police with ridiculous accusations,” Noloyiso said. When asked what accusations, she replied: “just accusations about all sorts of stuff and the court ordered us not to help them anymore.” According to some of the homeless who stayed there previously, the church takes donations and whatever is not good enough for their cupboards gets passed to the homeless.
When asked why they say on their signs that the church will provide shelter, Noloyiso said “what we do and what we say we do has got nothing to do with anyone, we can say and do what we want. We don’t get any donations from the public. I am ordering you to leave now, this is our premises, we don’t want your help and we did not contact you. In fact, we don’t want to talk to you,” Noloyiso screamed at the reporter.
“The operation is a collaborative and integrated approach to stem out lawlessness in the Secunda CBD. It is thus a direct response to the flagrant disregard of applicable legislations,” a statement that circulated read.
“It is unfair; a few people that are not even part of our group caused all of this. How do authorities expect us to leave if we don’t have any money to leave? How are we supposed to find jobs without an Identity Document, which they took? How are we supposed to apply for a new ID book if there is no money? It is all a vicious cycle,” Survivor said.
“No matter where we go, we are still South African citizens. But because we don’t have money, we don’t have rights,” another one added.
Are all of the homeless really that bad or does some of them, in their humble way, make a difference? A group residing at the Post Office took a hammer and took out pieces that were left of a broken pillar. “The old people are falling over it, we had to do something before someone gets seriously hurt,” Shereen Jacobs, a homeless woman whose possessions were also taken away, said.
A chicken, a bread and chips. This is what this group of homeless people bought together to share amongst them. Even with a small portion for each, they still invited the Bulletin reporter to join them for lunch. “Please join us, it is not much, but you are more than welcome.”
*Fiela is the Sesotho word for “sweep”.
Gwendie Venter