Police officers arrived at Alexandra’s Pan Africa Mall on Thursday morning with officials from the department of home affairs and arrested several undocumented foreign traders.
The dramatic arrests came in the wake of ongoing demonstrations conducted by the anti-immigrant Dudula movement at the mall.
Since Monday, the anti-immigrant group has clashed with foreign vendors, both documented and undocumented.
When the home affairs officials arrived on Thursday morning, many of the traders, who had been operating along the pavements of the mall, vanished without a trace.
The officials entered shops where suspected undocumented foreign workers were employed.
While some home affairs officials arrested those who were not documented, other police officers conducted stop and search checks on cars and persons passing through the mall.
While several undocumented foreigners were arrested. No members of the Dudula movement were arrested during Thursday’s police operation.
After the officials left the mall, the only people around were a few elderly South African women, who had resumed trading without fear of being caught up in the conflit.
The leader of the Dudula movement has hailed the police operation as a victory for them.
“If it were not for our determination and pressure, we would not have reached this stage in our life in South Africa,” said Simon “Msayza” Rati.
“It took us to be named criminals, xenophobic or vigilantes for the police and the home affairs to stand up and act. Now we need the authorities to arrest those employing undocumented foreigners.”
Gogo Dudu Khumalo, 59, a member of the Dudula Movement and a trader who operates on the pavement of the mall, said if the police and the home affairs had been doing this, there would have been no blood.
“But we have people being injured and some arrested in attacks between foreigners and locals because authorities never heard our cries,” she said.
Meanwhile, six members of the Dudula movement who had been arrested this week, appeared in the Alexandra Magistrate’s Court on Thursday and were retained in custody.
Contrary to what he claimed on Tuesday, Rati did not hand himself in to the police on Wednesday because he said that there are no charges against him.