Wetin dey happun inside South Africa xenophobic vigilante group

Dimakatso Makoena in a school kitchen in Kwa Thema, South Africa

Dimakatso Makoena blame foreigners say dem sell drugs give her pikin scata im life

South African vigilante group Operation Dudula don turn big wahala as dem dey raid business wey foreigners own and force dem to close dia shops. BBC Africa Eye chook eye put activities of di members of di kontri most popular anti-migrant street movement.

For inside school kitchen for Kwa Thema, township wey dey east of Johannesburg, Dimakatso Makoena dey make sandwich. Di 57 year old single mama of three don dey work dia as cook for ova 10 years.

She tok, as she almost dey cry say, “true-true, I hate foreigners. I wish say dem go just pack comot, leave our kontri”.

E no clear how much dis hate strong reach till Ms Makoena carry her phone to show picture of her pikin wey don lean taya wit red eye and burns all ova im body, im legs and all ova im face.

She tok say, “e start to smoke drugs wen e be 14 years old”. She explain say, im start to dey tiff to feed im habit. Na so one day, im bin wan tiff power cables to sell wen e shock and burn am.

Zandile Dabula at Operation Dudula conference in Johannesburg, South Africa - May 2023


Her son dey use crystal meth and nyaope, wey be very addictive street drug and e don scata communities dem for South Africa. No be until she explain say she blame foreigners wey dey sell di drugs, na im e clear why she dey support Operation Dudula.

She tell BBC say, “Dudula na di only tin wey dey keep me going”.

Operation Dudula bin start for Soweto two years ago, and na di first group wey dey formally dey commit wetin don be, up till dat point, xenophobic vigilante attacks for South Africa. Dis kain attacks bin start shortly afta di white minority rule bin end for 1994. Dem dey call demselves say dem be civic movement, wey dey dey run on anti-migrant platform, as “dudula” mean “to force out” for Zulu.

Soweto bin dey for front of di anti-apartheid fight and na di house of Nelson Mandela wey be South Africa first democratically elected president. Now di township don turn di home of di kontri most popular anti-migrant group.

As one in three South Africans no get job, wey make am one of di most unequal societies for world, foreigners don turn easy target.

But di number of migrants wey dey South Africa don dey exaggerated wella.

According to one 2022 report by di Institute for Security Studies (ISS) wey be independent research organisations wey dey Pretoria, na about 3.95 million migrants dey for South Africa, wey make dem 6.5% of di population.

Dat na di normal amount according to international standards. Dis amount na of everybodi no mata dia legal status or wia dem from come.

Di xenophobic tok-tok wey some public officials, politicians and anti-migrants groups dey carry waka don ginger di rumor say migrants don over full di kontri.

For 2021, di South African Social Attitudes Survey find out say almost half of di population of 60 million pipo believe say di number of immigrants for di kontri dey between 17 and 40 million.

Current polling suggest say di support wey di ruling African National Congress (ANC), di party wey oga Mandela bin once lead, go fall below 50% for di first time.

Operation Dudula plan na to fill dat hole and dem don change demselves from local anti-migrant group to national political party, and tok say dem wan contest for next year general election.

Zandile Dabula, wey dem vote as president of Operation Dudula for June 2023, dey calm, charismatic and tanda for di group message wey be “foreigners” na di original cause of South Africa economic palava.

Wen dem tell am say, dis whole campaign dey only based on hate, she tell BBC say, “we gatz dey realistic here say most of di problems wey we get na sake of di influx of foreign citizens.

“Our kontri don spoil. Foreign nationals dey work on 20 year plan to come take ova South Africa.”

Wen dem hammer am about dis 20 year plan, she admit say na rumor bit she believe say na true.

She kontinu say, “you see drugs everywia and most of di drug addicts na South Africans no be foreigners. So wetin dey happun? Dem dey feed our own brothers and sisters dem so e go fit easy for dem to take over?”

But di anger wey dem dey put for migrants head dey also fall on di pipo wey dey stay and work for di kontri legally.

One Nigerian market trader, wey face Operation Dudula members for Johannesburg, earlier dis year, tell BBC say di two women wey shock am wit tasers and troway im clothes inside gutter no stop to ask am questions.

As dem bin dey shot, e tok say dem cause am say, “you must to go Nigeria…we be Dudula, we be South African.”

As e no get market again, na road im dey sleep now.

E say, “I dey vote for dis kontri, I be citizen here. I neva see di kontri wey dey treat pipo like dis, If e be say I dey do illegal tin, fine. Deport me. But I no do anytin illegal. Now you make my life miserable. I no fit pay rent, I wan go, e don too much.”

Operation Dudula don maintain say dem dey worry ova di large number of drugs wey don enta South Africa poorest community say, na dia most pressing wahala be dat. But, data no dey to back up di claim say who dey sell di drugs no be South Africans.

Comparative statistics no dey for drug crimes, but di ISS report quote di justice minister wey say immigrants na 8.5% of convicted cases for 2019 and 7.1% for 2020. Di ISS add say 2.3% of prisoners wey dey imprisoned na undocumented foreigners.

For Diepkloof inside east Soweto, BBC enta one so called Dudula taskforce. Men inside trucks dey go confront one Mozambican shopkeeper wey one South African landlady accuse say neva pay im rent.

E suppose be negotiation o but e sharparly turn argument sotay one of di men, Mandla Lenkosi threaten to beat am. Wen BBC ask dem why dem dey do like agbero, dem tok say dem dey enforce law.

Oga Lenkosi wey be from Soweto and no get work, dey follow for raids for migrant houses and work places dem, pipo wey dem suspect say dey do anytin from drug dealing to staying for di kontri afta dia visa expire.

“We grow for apartheid times, wia tins beta pass as e be now. Di law be di law (den)”, na wetin e tok.

In fellow Dudula supporter, Cedric Stone gree say, “South Afrca need go back to di South Africa wey we know. Our papa bin dey start tuck shops but today all di tuck shops na foreigners get am especially Bangladeshis, Somali and Ethiopians. Why?”

President Cyril Ramaphosa don tok outside against anti migrant protests and condemn vigilante groups wey dey harass and attack migrants. E say dia behaviour resemble wetin pipo do to oppress black communities during apartheid time.

For 2019, e start di National Action Plan to handle racism and xenophobia, but campaigners say goment gatz do more.

Annie Michaels wey be activists from di Johannesburg Migrants Advisory Panel say South Africans dey blame di wrong pipo for dia wahala, and dem suppose dey admire migrants for dia survival skills.

“Stop to dey siddon, dey complain and die for dat corner, dey wait di goment wey dey fail you evri day,” na so she tell BBC.

“Di migrants … na dem poor pass. Dem go rather go meet dem, harass dem, instead of to face di cages of di guys wey dey stay for glass houses.”

Ms Dabula howeva say di pipo wey call Operation Dudula say dem be joinbodi of violent vigilantes dey wrong.

“We no dey promote violence and we no want make pipo feel harassed”, but add say, “we no go dey overtaken by foreigners dey siddon look.”

Hundreds of supporters travel to attend dia first national conference for Johannesburg for May, wia di members vote to register di group as political party.

Dimakatso Makoena in front of an Operation Dudula banner on the outskirts of Johanesburg, South Africa

Operation Dudula na im give Dimakatso Makoena sense of purpose and hope for di future

As dem dey carry South Africa flags wave am up and down dey sing through di streets of di City Hall, e resemble jollification.

But wetin dem dey sing dey threatening message for am. “Burn di foreigner, we go go garage, buy fuel and burn di foreigner.”

Dia military cloth dey remind pesin of South Africa liberation struggle. E dey communicate readiness of battle.

Ms Makoena also dey dia, dey smile as she wear her party shirt. She say, “Operation Dudula go make history today.”

For stage, Isaac Lesole wet be di technical adviser for Operation Dudula ask di cheering fans say, “Shey make we make peace with illegal foreigners?”

Di audience ansa am, say “No”.

For South African law, registration of party no mean sat e go automatically qualify to contest for elections. More steps still dey.

Operation Dudula no get manifesto or ay oda policy wey pass dia stance on foreigners, even though Ms Dabula say dem get presence for every province apart from Northern Cape.

Supporters of di new party wey follow BBC tok, be like dem truly want make tins dey fixed for dia communities. De represent di change in mood for South Africa politics wia pipo don taya of di status quo.

But di toxic mix of poverty, drugs and fear don turn to blame game wey migrants now na di scapegoats.