Xenophobia: How South African Group Targets Nigerians, Other African Nationals, Executes Frequent Patrols, Raids To Forcibly Remove Migrants
A BBC documentary has exposed the operations of a South African organisation called Dudula, which is hellbent on expelling foreigners from the nation.
The report titled ‘Fear and Loathing in South Africa’ investigates the socioeconomic causes and xenophobic ideas that fuel residents’ anti-migrant sentiments.
Ayanda Charlie, a South African journalist, got exclusive access to Operation Dudula, an anti-migrant gang-turned political party. The organisation is accused of vigilantism, as well as fostering xenophobia and hate speech.
Charlie uncovered how anti-migrant organisations execute frequent patrols and raids to forcibly remove migrants from their businesses and residences, often unlawfully.
The documentary exposed the brutality shown towards refugees. Some videos posted on a pro-Dudula website expose even more atrocities against migrants.
The Zulu name ‘Dudula’ means ‘to drive out,’ reflecting the anti-migrant rhetoric pushed by Operation Dudula.
Several survivors of Operation Dudula’s bloody raids spoke with BBC Africa Eye. A Nigerian company owner stated that two Dudula members tased him and destroyed his clothes products, making him homeless.
“I’ve never seen a country treat people like this. Fine if I’m doing something illegal. Please deport me. But I’m not breaking any laws. You’ve made my life horrible; I can’t pay my rent anymore. It’s just too much for me,” the Nigerian told BBC.
The BBC Africa Eye documentary shows Dudula members chanting anti-migrant chants while seeking to identify a shopkeeper who they believe has information about a recent crime during a ‘patrol operation’ in Johannesburg.
When asked why these patrols are being conducted, Pumla Mpurwana, a member of Operation Dudula, stated, “We are trying to ensure that these foreign nationals respect us and that we are protected in our society.”
The investigation also revealed that the organisation also operates a WhatsApp contact line for South African citizens to report migrants occupying RDP housing, which is social housing for South Africans.
When they receive information on a migrant residing in this type of housing, they dispatch an undercover squad to investigate.
Zandile Dabula, president of Operation Dudula, is seen telling an undercover member to remove their Dudula shirt to conceal their identity in one operation.
She told BBC Africa Eye, “When they see the Dudula t-shirt, they know there’s trouble. So, we don’t want them to be suspicious that there’s an investigation happening. We just want them to provide as much information as they can.”
Critics accuse Operation Dudula of targeting some of the most vulnerable groups in society.
Anne Michaels, a campaigner for migrant rights told BBC Africa Eye, “They [migrants] are always on edge for whatever might happen. They would rather go after the most vulnerable and attack them. The migrants are vulnerable. They would rather go to them and rattle them, instead of rattling the cages of the guys living in the glass houses.”
BBC Africa Eye discovered another anti-migrant group operating in the Alexandra township, with tactics and rhetoric similar to Operation Dudula.
Sabelo, a victim of the gang’s attack in 2019, said members of the organisation told him to leave his home, despite the fact that he is a South African citizen. He told BBC Africa Eye that he was a foreigner who needed to go.
He said, “These people had guns. They were well-armed. When I went to the police, they told me that these people are heavily armed. Don’t take any chances; they will kill you.”
Sabelo now resides in a shack and struggles to provide for his family. He added, “Sometimes it feels as if you are naked and vulnerable. You can just see how inferior you are. You see yourself as useless. It is more than you can bear.”
The video shows how xenophobic rhetoric that blames migrants for economic failure and criminality fuels Operation Dudula’s actions and raids.
Zandile Dabula told BBC Africa Eye that migrants were working on a “20-year plan to take over South Africa.” However, when asked to verify this claim, she admitted that it was a rumour.
Zandile added, “It’s a rumour, but the way we see things happening, we believe that this rumour is actually true.”
The documentary investigates why residents are joining the cause. Dimakatso, a mother and member of Operation Dudula, an organisation that supplies meals to students and homeless youngsters, claimed that migrants were to blame for her son’s heroin addiction, which began when he was 14 years old.
She told BBC Africa Eye, “I hate foreigners, and the government is doing nothing. I wish they would just pack up and leave our country. It’s foreigners who are selling drugs on the streets.”
During an operation in Diepkloof, Dudula members went to the home of a migrant shopkeeper after getting information from his landlord that he was not paying rent. The shopkeeper was aggressively pressed into signing a written agreement that would force him to abandon his property within two months, as captured by BBC Africa Eye.
On camera, a Dudula member told the business owner, “If you are disrespectful to us, we will beat you up. I have a whip right there.”
Operation Dudula’s leadership denies promoting violence. Zandile Dabula told BBC Africa Eye, “In some cases, you need to be really firm. We don’t endorse violence, and we don’t want people to feel harassed. But I’ll tell you that at some point, we really need to push harder because it’s an undeniable truth.”
During their conference in Johannesburg, BBC Africa Eye recorded the moment when Operation Dudula announced that it had become a political party and would contest in elections next year.
Lead presenter Ayanda Charlie said, “I went on this journey to learn more about the kind of people who would join a group like Operation Dudula. Once I met them, I realized that a lot of them are just like the people from back home, people from my neighbourhood, and they struggle with the same things I grew up struggling with. But what’s been disappointing is that these people have taken that pain and created more pain.” (SaharaReporters)