About 100 people marched under the banner of Operation Dudula to the police station in South Beach, Durban on Sunday. Photo: Nokulunga Majola
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South Africa: Operation Dudula members march through Durban’s city centre

The launch of the movement in Durban comes as President Ramaphosa cautions against “deeply disturbing” acts against immigrants

  • About 100 people marched under the banner of Operation Dudula to the police station in South Beach, Durban on Sunday.
  • They are demanding that the government have better policing and enforcement of the Immigration Act.
  • The group wants foreign nationals to comply with immigration law, to abide by the terms and conditions of their visa status and that they must leave when their permits expire.
  • The organisation Africa Refugee Social Cooperation has raised the alarm about members of Operation Dudula painting all immigrants with the same brush.

About 100 people marched through the streets of the Durban city centre under the banner of Operation Dudula to the police station in South Beach on Sunday. They are demanding that the government have better policing and enforcement of the Immigration Act.

At the police station, they handed over a memo to the police and the Department of Home Affairs. During the march, participants were heard singing anti-immigrant songs, often using the term ‘amakwerekwere’ while some bystanders in buildings overlooking the group hurled objects at them from windows.

According to the memo, the group wants foreign nationals to comply with SA immigration law, to abide by the terms and conditions of their visa status and that they must leave when their permits expire. The group also wants the commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to investigate an alleged syndicate operating at the Durban customs office. The movement claims that this syndicate is running a counterfeit goods business in South Africa.

Operation Dudula’s deputy chairperson Dan Radebe said Durban was the point of entry for counterfeit goods having a negative impact on jobs, particularly the local textile industry. Radebe said they are in talks with Home Affairs to identify buildings where they believe undocumented immigrants live. “We want our concerns to be taken seriously,” he said.

Victoria Mamogobo from the Put South Africa First movement said they wanted all immigrants not employed under the critical skills list to be deported. “We will not share non-rare skilled jobs with foreigners,” she said.

Andrew Dikobo, who accepted the memorandum on behalf of Home Affairs’ immigration office, said that the concerns raised by the group were being taken seriously. He said that Home Affairs conducts regular inspections and other operations.

Station commander Brigadier Cynthia Ngubane accepted the memo for the police.

Jean Butoki Madel from the Africa Refugee Social Cooperation has raised the alarm about members of Operation Dudula painting all immigrants with the same brush, by, for example, claiming they are undocumented. She accused some government officials of supporting the movement and its anti-immigrant actions. “The government knows exactly how many documented foreigners are in the country,” he said.

Madel said, “South Africa has chosen to create a fearful atmosphere towards migrants so that they can leave the country. We are calling the government to hand refugee and asylum seekers to the United Nations Refugee Agency’s management.”

Daniel Duna, general secretary of the African Solidarity Network, said most of the foreign-owned and other stores closed for the day, fearing that the march would cause chaos.

In his weekly letter, President Cyril Ramaphosa said incidents against immigrants and accompanying rhetoric were “deeply disturbing”.

“We recognise that illegal migration poses a risk to South Africa’s security, stability and economic progress … we have the right to implement policies and measures that guarantee the integrity of our borders, protect the rights of South Africans and provide that all who reside in our borders have a legal right to be here.” He said acts of lawlessness against immigrants cannot be tolerated.

“Attacking those we suspect of wrongdoing merely because they are a foreign national is not an act of patriotism … Today, our anger may be directed at nationals from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Nigeria or Pakistan. Tomorrow, our anger may be directed at each other,” Ramaphosa said.

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