#OperationDudula, a vigilante organization in South Africa, has announced that they will oppose the extension of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) on April 11, 2023. This permit, which was introduced in 2017, allowed Zimbabwean nationals who were in South Africa illegally to regularize their stay and work in the country for a period of four years.
However, #OperationDudula opposes the extension of the permit, stating that it is unlawful and contributes to the influx of illegal immigrants in the country. The group blames South Africa’s porous borders, lenient immigration practices, and the presence of migrants for many of the country’s social issues, including crime, lack of jobs, and poor health services.
#OperationDudula will oppose the extension of the unlawful Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) on the 11 April 2023
Illegal Zimbabwean foreigners have the power to take South African government to court through organisations that are advocating for lawlessness in South Africa,… pic.twitter.com/HgFhqMKFi3
— PSAFLIVE (@PSAFLIVE) April 5, 2023
#OperationDudula, which means “force out” or “knock down” in isiZulu, has been widely recognized as being xenophobic. The group has been linked with violently threatening and targeting migrants, including forcibly closing shops and raiding properties. While the group denies having any connection to xenophobic motives, their anti-immigrant sentiments have stirred controversy in South Africa.
The controversy surrounding #OperationDudula stems from their stance that small businesses should only employ South Africans and migrant shopkeepers should close down and leave South Africa. Many argue that this approach not only violates the human rights of immigrants but also ignores the valuable contributions they make to the country’s economy and society.
The group has no membership structure, is highly visible on social media, and is composed mainly of affected community members. They have been associated with other organizations, including the South Africa First campaign, Dudula Movement, All Truck Drivers Foundation, and the UMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association (disbanded).
#OperationDudula emerged from discourse that blamed migrants for the fallout and economic hardship caused by COVID-19 deaths and lockdowns. Their first march, which targeted people they believed were foreign drug traffickers and businesses that they thought employed immigrants, took place on June 16, 2021, through Soweto. The march increased their popularity, and in the following months, several other anti-immigrant groups also going by Dudula or some variation of the name were established.
The controversy surrounding #OperationDudula has not gone unnoticed, and many are calling for a more humane and rational approach to immigration policy in South Africa. While immigration is a complex issue, it is clear that hostility towards immigrants and a disregard for their human rights is not the solution.