Hundreds of Operation Dudula members marched through the streets of Durban on April 10 demanding that the government take stronger action to deal with the high numbers of illegal immigrants.

The protesters sang and chanted anti-immigrant slogans under the watchful eyes of the police. They then proceeded to Point Police station where they handed a memorandum with demands. They called for government action to address the issue of undocumented immigrants alleged to be involved in various criminal activities.

“So the issues are that people are coming into the country and they are not documented and the government is doing nothing about it,” said Zandile Dabula, national secretary for Operation Dudula. “It’s difficult to find them when they commit crime. We just need our departments to actually enforce the law.”  

The rise in anti-immigrant sentiment in mostly low-income South African communities, also known as townships, has left immigrants and refugees fearing for their safety but Dabula wonders why.

“I don’t understand why we should be called xenophobic because all we are asking is that people need to be documented when they come to this country. It’s done in other countries but people are not called xenophobic so why are called that when South Africans demand the same? 

Dan Radebe, deputy chairperson of the movement said, “Durban has become a critical point of this movement because it houses the busiest harbor in the Southern African development community.” 

“That is the very same harbor they are using as the point of entry for all the fake goods that have flooded our country, killing our textile industry which then affects the unemployment rate as well,” Radebe said. 

Operation Dudula is a splinter group from a faction in the Put South Africans First movement, an organization that first popularized and renewed anti-immigrant campaigns on social media before finding expression on the ground. The new movement is led by 36-year-old Nhlanhla ‘Lux’ Dlamini, born Nhlanhla Paballo Mohlauli.

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