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'They are not hooligans' — Fees Must Fall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile stands by Operation Dudula

31 March 2022 - 11:00
Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia held an anti-xenophobia march on Saturday. File image
Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia held an anti-xenophobia march on Saturday. File image
Image: Mike Holmes

Fees Must Fall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile has reiterated his support for the Operation Dudula movement, despite calls by the EFF for him to be treated as an enemy.

Operation Dudula, led by Nhlanhla “Lux” Dlamini, began its operations in Soweto last year and has conducted raids on and inspections of several businesses and establishments in search of undocumented foreign nationals. 

Khanyile told TimesLIVE that instead of condemning Operation Dudula, the government needs to engage and address the movement and those who share its views. 

“The people who are in authority must make decisions and, equally, South Africans must have a voice on the matter. Politicians must take a clear stance on issues raised by Operation Dudula because they are genuine. They [Operation Dudula members] are not hooligans like they [politicians] want us to believe,” said Khanyile.

They are not against foreigners, but illegal foreign nationals. By virtue of being an illegal immigrant, you are already a criminal
Bonginkosi Khanyile

Khanyile, a former EFF member, was criticised by the party's secretary-general, Marshall Dlamini, who called on EFF supporters to treat him as an enemy of the party.

Ex EFF members like Bonginkosi Khanyile who have joined the ranks of our enemies should be treated like our enemies,” he wrote.

Khanyile said he was unfazed by the criticism against him and Operation Dudula.

He said critics of the movement have distorted the message of Operation Dudula.

“Operation Dudula is not against foreigners, but illegal foreign nationals. By virtue of being an illegal immigrant, you are already a criminal.”

If the government did its job and enforced the law, said Khanyile, movements like Operation Dudula would not exist.

“What has given birth to Operation Dudula is government. Our leaders and police force are sleeping on the job.”

Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia (KAAX), an organisation opposed to Operation Dudula, marched against xenophobic sentiments in the Johannesburg city centre at the weekend.

Its spokesperson, whose identity has been withheld due to safety concerns, lamented the government's failure to protect foreign nationals. She said this means that it endorses the xenophobic elements in society. 

Speaking to TimesLIVE on Wednesday, she said the organisation was aware of foreign nationals, mostly women, who were allegedly assaulted and displaced after they were chased out of their homes or lost income after their businesses were raided, allegedly by Operation Dudula members. 

“The majority of the informal traders are women. Some of them were assaulted by people who identified themselves as members of Operation Dudula. Their fruits and vegetables were taken.

“They went to the police station twice before they could open a case. The xenophobic elements of being assaulted by random people are also being supported by the state in the form of the SA Police Service,” she alleged.

Job scarcity and high levels of crime are among the concerns raised by movements like Operation Dudula. KAAX, however, is of the view that SA was battling crime before 1994.

It says blaming foreign nationals, regardless of their status, is disingenuous. 

The way in which these things are portrayed, it's in a manner that seeks to create division between South Africans and foreign nationals
Spokesperson for Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia 

“In SA we have had crime since before 1994. Similarly, there are foreign nationals who have come to SA and committed crimes. But the way in which these things are portrayed, it's in a manner that seeks to create division between South Africans and foreign nationals. SA has its own criminals.

“This does not mean that all South Africans are criminals, neither does it mean all foreign nationals are criminals.”

The organisation said closer attention should be paid to border control to assess how undocumented foreign nationals gain access to SA.

It said the failure of home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi to condemn Operation Dudula gives the impression he supports the movement.

It cautioned that if the ongoing tensions are not quelled, they could escalate.

“Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia wants to look at how we can resolve this before it mutates into something more.

“With Operation Dudula we are creating more problems which are social, economic and political. If we treat foreign nationals the way we do, one must expect there will be a response from other parts of the continent that will affect us.”

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