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Violence breaks out as Alexandra Dudula Movement member...

South Africa

XENOPHOBIA

Violence breaks out as Alexandra Dudula Movement members target foreign informal traders

Alexandra Dudula Movement members on the march in Alexandra on Monday, 7 March 2022. The Dudula members clashed with foreign traders at the Pan Africa Shopping Centre. (Photo: Everson Luhanga / Scrolla.Africa)

Police and other law enforcement members remain on high alert in Alexandra after clashes between migrant street vendors and Alexandra Dudula Movement members on Monday.

The police said one South African and three Zimbabweans were injured during clashes between street vendors and members of the Alexandra Dudula Movement on Monday.

The chairperson of the Alexandra Dudula Movement, known only as Msyza, told Daily Maverick on Monday that migrant business owners had fought members of the movement.

“Foreign nationals started attacking us, they were fully armed and retaliated,” claimed Agnes Malatjie, the general secretary of the Alexandra Dudula Movement.

alexandra dudula foreign traders
Alexandra Dudula Movement general secretary Agnes Malatjie remonstrates with a man who was fighting against members of her movement on Monday, 7 March 2022. Dudula members were evicting foreign business owners from their trading premises. (Photo: Everson Luhanga / Scrolla.Africa)

Malatjie said the group of foreign nationals started throwing stones at them “unprovoked”. She claimed they were armed with sticks and guns. 

“It was traumatising, especially considering that the police responded an hour later. We don’t trust the police. They failed to arrest a single foreign national despite that these guys had weapons.  

“It looks like now they are saying it’s been three weeks since they have not been operating as a result of our operations and they seem to be saying this is driving them into poverty.

“But the people of Alexandra are also languishing in poverty.”

The Alexandra Dudula Movement stepped up its operation to kick out illegal migrants from Sunday, 13 February when migrant street vendors were driven out of their business stalls. The situation turned violent on Tuesday, 15 February when shopkeepers allegedly shot at members of the movement.

A large group of members of the Alexandra Dudula Movement protested against the presence of foreign businesses near the Pan Africa Shopping Centre on Monday and some businesses in the vicinity were forced to shut down.

A violent confrontation broke out when some migrants refused to shut down their businesses.   

Members of the Alexandra Dudula Movement have vowed to force out migrant business owners in Alexandra and say they want the businesses to be taken over by South Africans. They have also vowed to force many businesses at the Pan Africa Shopping Centre to close because they say the businesses are run by foreign nationals. 

Many migrant business owners have warned that they will fight back to protect their businesses if the police failed to protect them.

alexandra dudula foreign traders
Members of the Alexandra Dudula Movement forced shops to close as they walked from one business to another at the Pan Africa Shopping Centre in Alexandra on Monday, 7 March 2022. At that stage, they were not looking at whether traders were South African or not. All shops at the mall were forced to close. (Photo Everson Luhanga / Scrolla.Africa)

When Daily Maverick arrived in Alexandra on Monday, there was a large police presence. 

Last weekend, about 800 members of Operation Dudula (not the same as the Alexandra Dudula Movement) in Diepkloof, Soweto, embarked on a march that ended at the Elias Motsoaledi informal settlement, where many illegal migrants are believed to live.

Several men were seen hurriedly throwing a few possessions in bags, locking their shacks and leaving when they saw the Operation Dudula members approaching. Most ran to a nearby hill and monitored the situation from there.

Protests against illegal migrants, especially by Operation Dudula in Soweto, have been going on for many months. The group alleges that illegal migrants take jobs that South African youths deserve and that they commit crimes. In recent weeks, Operation Dudula has received support from other organisations such as Put South Africa First and the All-Truck Drivers Forum (ATDF), which is against the hiring of foreign truck drivers and foreigners generally.  

While Operation Dudula stepped up its operations and visited places such as Hillbrow and Orange Grove in Johannesburg in the past few weeks, the Alexandra Dudula Movement told Daily Maverick its focus was on migrant business owners. In the past weeks, the group has been visiting stalls and stores demanding proof that owners were legal in South Africa.

Crates, boxes and makeshift tables and stalls belonging to foreign nationals have been burnt during operations at the Bara Taxi Rank in Diepkloof and in Alexandra.

In recent months, calls for the government to prioritise South Africans, especially regarding jobs, have been growing even outside the Dudula movements. As the anti-migrant sentiments grow, the government has reacted by cancelling the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits, granting holders a 12-month grace period that expires on 31 December. 

Some groups such as the ATDF have called for the grace period to be abolished.  

The groups have denied that they are xenophobic and have insisted they are merely putting South Africans first.

Police said they will continue to monitor the situation in Alexandra to ensure there are no flare-ups. DM

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