By Demian van der Reijden

A seven day operation to enforce all by-laws in the city centre has been launched by Johannesburg Metro police .

Operation Hleka (clean up) will see about 1 300 metro officers patrolling the area between Wolmarans, End, Village and Koch streets until Sunday to ensure that by-laws are enforced and adhered to.

Metro police's Superintendent Wayne Minnaar was proud to show what his men were doing on Monday.

"I know they'll be back the moment we leave," Minnaar said, pointing to hawkers in Noord Street. "But if we did nothing, all sidewalks would be covered with hawkers. We have to control the city."

Metro cops confiscated goods from 52 hawkers on Monday. One was arrested for not co-operating, and 20 fines were issued for illegal trading.

"They were trading outside allocated areas and didn't have the right permits", operation commander Superintendent Zesazi Mangaliso said.

Confiscated goods are listed and stored in the Metro police headquarters in Village Street.

If hawkers pay the fine they get their goods back. The fine is R500 for illegal trading, and an additional fine of between R350 and R820 depending on whether the goods are perishable or not.

Perishable goods are disposed of after three days, while other goods are kept for three months before police auction it.

"That has never happened", said Mangaliso. He points over his shoulder to a van being offloaded about twenty metres down the street: "Some are fast in collecting, and put it back on the street again before we leave.

"The city is full, full. There's no space for new hawkers in the demarcated areas. There's actually a waiting list.

"Another problem is 99 percent of the goods sold on Joburg's streets are counterfeit.

"That they don't get back, we destroy it. Only, we're not the ones to charge people for it.

"So we try to rope in South African Police Services and Home Affairs to deal with that aspect."

Operation Hleka is aimed at regaining control of Johannesburg's streets, Minnaar said. He expects that, after this week, 60 percent of all misconduct in the area will be removed.

"We have to repeat these sorts of operations on a regular basis to keep it that way."

And it's not just hawkers. There are eleven sets of by-laws in the metro police handbook, and the city is enforcing them all this week.

Officers will roam the city, looking for minor offences like illegal car washing, excessive gas storage and so on.

On Monday, metro road blocks also netted 93 motorists with outstanding traffic fines.

Minnaar said he was confident of a positive outcome.