African Diaspora Forum calls on people to leave authorities to deal with illegal immigrants

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The African Diaspora Forum has called on people to leave relevant authorities to deal with the issue of illegal immigrants, instead of taking the law into their own hands.

This follows the clashes, which erupted between supporters of the Dudula Movement and foreign national traders in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg this week.

The movement insists foreign nationals should be deported and their businesses taken over by South Africans.

A group of people organised themselves and took to the streets of Johannesburg purportedly to reclaim their space. In order to achieve this goal, the group, under the banner “Operation Dudula” has been focusing on undocumented foreign nationals, saying they should leave the country.

Chairperson of Operation Dudula, Dan Radebe says they are also calling on businesses to prioritise South African nationals.

“If the government did something in the first place, we wouldn’t be having illegal immigrants being employed by these companies. For this to take place, where was the Labour Department, which is part of government. It demonstrates that they don’t want to do anything.”

They have been to various places in the city, including Rossetenville and Soweto in recent weeks, calling for all undocumented foreign nationals to stop trading and leave the country. Their operation has prompted other communities to give rise to similar movements. Some residents in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, went to Pan Africa, removing foreign national traders. However, the traders did not take kindly to the move, which resulted in clashes.

Itumeleng Mabu from the Dudula Movement in Alex says this is about the economy and not xenophobia.

“And they are violent, we don’t have any weapons on us as you can see. They have weapons, they have stones. They sell at R3 while we sell at R5 so who are people going to buy from, and they’re violent. We are trying to find a peaceful closure to this so we can work together this is not a matter of black and black or discrimination. With these people, our crime stats are actually going high, there are so many cases that are not solved because they are not documented. Look at that boy, he has stones, which means he is willing to fight. We are not chasing anyone, but we also need space and at a price, we all need to agree on.”

Volatile area

Chairperson of the African Diaspora Forum, Dr Vusimuzi Sibanda, says Alexandra has always been a volatile area – when it comes to anti-foreigner protests. However, he says he has noticed too many loopholes and criminal elements.

“Alex has always been a boiling hot point in terms of when xenophobic attacks are concerned. What we have established is that there is a difference between the Dudula Movement and Operation Dudula because we want to sit down with the groups in order to resolve these issues by trying to remove the element of people taking the law into their own hands, going to people, who they perceive and think that they are illegal immigrants. We see that there are elements of criminality and people hiding saying they are fighting illegal immigration. People may not take the law onto themselves, closing shops, or become Home Affairs officials. If they suspect anything they must report to the relevant authorities.”

Johannesburg Member of the Mayoral Community on Community Safety, David Tembe, who visited the area on Friday, says no one should act outside the law.

“Any person, who breaks the law, should be arrested. Our stance is, if a person is trading there, they should be trading legally. Then we have no problem, but if they trade illegally, then we have a problem. When you go into the inner city, the majority of the people that are trading there are not South African, they are foreigners. Who is authorized to ask for an ID, it’s law officers. Dudula is not a legal entity that falls under SAPS.”

Illegal immigrants

Deputy Tourism Minister, Fish Mahlasela says there has to be a way to deal with deporting illegal immigrants without denting the country’s image. Mahlasela says the tourism and hospitality industry is dominated by migrant workers, and there needs to be a balance.

“Currently the sector is dominated by migrant workers, we don’t encourage illegal migrants, but it is a problem that needs to be addressed. But we need to do it in a manner that doesn’t create problems for South Africa and therefore we need to tread with sensitivity. The violence does create a very serious negative image for South Africa.”

Meanwhile, a multi-disciplinary team consisting of SAPS, JMPD, Immigration and Labour, conducted an operation in Alexandra, during which about 300 undocumented foreign nationals were detained.

Dudula Movement I Calm restored in Alex as five arrested: Vusumuzi Sibanda: