Maverick Citizen


Operation Dudula threat to remove migrant children from schools sparks warning from activists

Operation Dudula threat to remove migrant children from schools sparks warning from activists
Operation Dudula members protest outside Department of Basic Education offices in Parow, Cape Town, while hundreds of parents queue to register their children on 17 January 2023. The group is advocating for the prioritisation of South African teachers and pupils in public schools. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Amid a reported campaign by the anti-foreigner group to remove migrant pupils from Diepsloot schools, an Equal Education researcher and an attorney with the Equal Education Law Centre have stressed the importance of recognising the false narrative used to scapegoat foreigners for government failures and encourage xenophobic sentiments.

Reports of a campaign by Operation Dudula to remove migrant children from schools in Diepsloot, Johannesburg, have prompted a warning by activists to be alive to the anti-foreigner group’s methods – as well as concern about the Department of Basic Education’s failure to respond.

Activist organisation Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia (KAAX) said news of the campaign emerged following a message on social media inviting members of Operation Dudula’s Diepsloot branch to attend a mass meeting on 26 January. 

When KAAX asked the group to confirm the content of the message, it refused to engage with them, says Dale McKinley from KAAX. 

“This is the attitude Operation Dudula has always had when we have attempted to try and dialogue with them. They have no desire to have any dialogue, answer questions or engage,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Equal Education has received reports from Diepsloot residents that members of Operation Dudula have been spotted entering school premises and engaging with school staff, said Equal Education researcher Katherine Sutherland and Equal Education Law Centre attorney Anjuli Maistry. 

To their knowledge, no pupils had been removed from school as part of the campaign. 

Operation Dudula blames foreigners for the non-placement of South African pupils in schools.

Read in Daily Maverick: 

The toxic and tragic results of Dudula’s hate campaign in Orange Grove

Inside Joburg’s building of darkness, where migrants live in fear as Operation Dudula threats amplify

Operation Dudula: When deep-seated frustration meets prejudice and weak leadership

“It is extremely difficult to monitor the activities of Operation Dudula in schools due to how they organise, their intimidation tactics, and a lack of media coverage of their activities,” they explained. 

Operation Dudula also claimed on Twitter that it had visited Lekamoso Secondary School in Etwatwa, Ekurhuleni, and removed 179 migrant pupils on 19 January. However, the principal has refuted the claim. “Operation Dudula never removed learners from our school; they have misled the public about this big lie,” said Jabu Madonsela.  

Operation Dudula members protest outside the Department of Education offices in Parow, Cape Town, on 17 January 2023. The group is advocating for the prioritisation of South African teachers and pupils in public schools. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Approached for comment, Zandile Dabula, Operation Dudula’s national spokesperson, asked Maverick Citizen to call her later while she gathered information from the Diepsloot branch. Attempts to call her back were unsuccessful. 

Call to condemn

Sutherland and Maistry also voiced concerns about the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) lack of response to the reported campaign. 

“Worryingly, the DBE has yet to respond, despite Operation Dudula’s history of violence, the potential of this violence being targeted towards children, and the threat to the right to schooling,” they said. 

They reiterated their call that the DBE should publicly condemn Operation Dudula’s call to remove pupils and reaffirm the rights of migrant children, regardless of their documentation status, to access schooling in South Africa. It should also ensure appropriate safety measures are put in place in schools at risk of intimidation by Operation Dudula, and re-release Circular 1 of 2020 regarding the right of undocumented pupils to education. 

Sutherland and Maistry said parents and caregivers of children who are removed from school due to Operation Dudula’s campaign should immediately alert their district education office which must re-facilitate their entry back into school, together with the support they require

This support included a catch-up plan for any missed school, counselling, and providing security measures where necessary. 

Parents and guardians could also report these incidents to the South African Police Service since they constituted a criminal offence. In addition, parents, caregivers and pupils were encouraged to report such incidents to Equal Education and the Equal Education Law Centre, which can monitor the situation and help directly where necessary. 

Gauteng education spokesperson Steve Mabona had not responded to queries by the time of publication. 

“Our law states, in no uncertain terms, that the constitutionally enshrined right to quality and basic education extends to all children on South African soil, regardless of their nationality and documentation status. This means that the budget for basic education must be used to cater to all learners, not just South African learners,” added Sutherland and Maistry. DM/MC


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Nick Park-Ross says:

    Wonderfully ironic that the “patriot” pictures about is displaying an upside down South African flag on her organisation’s apparel.

  • Diana Bidwell says:

    This is a horrific state of affairs. I weep for the victims of this ignorance and hate. It seems that there is no cure for stupidity.

  • Rory Short says:

    Ideally society should be comprised of a web of economically viable, inter-linked nodes, of two to three child and two parent family units. If the situation is not like this, as it isn’t to a large extent in many places in SA, then you get social problems which need resolving, but who is to resolve them, the government?

    Yes, but government also needs mount programs aimed at preventing the problems from arising in te first place.

  • Vas K says:

    I know nobody involved in Operation Dudula but their behaviour is despicable. You can’t sink much lower than using children for political games. Why don’t you tackle the real problems and get rid of the incompetent and criminal establishment instead of innocent children? Take on someone your size for goodness sake.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Is it xenophobic to oppose open borders? As much as I oppose violence, it is not surprising that people are going fight over scarce resources – no country can afford all and sundry to pitch up and never leave. People might feel less liberal if the local golf course or buildings in Sandton were given over to illegal immigrants.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    This idiots are protesting against non-South Africans being educated instead of fighting a hopelessly inadequate education system that “produces” learners unfit for work.

    • virginia crawford says:

      They are the result of the poor education: no critical thinking or planning, but good at making a noise and breaking things. The same logic applies when people burn down municipal offices to protest “service deluvery ” failures.

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    This dangerous group should not be allowed to exist. Their policy is based on lies, hatred and animosity, therefore they have no democratic rights.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    The very fact that our schools are used to school illegal immigrants shows the ANC government’s lack of commitment to South Africa’s people. “. . . regardless of documentation status” means support for illegal immigrants and therefore also shows a total disregard for SA law. I don’t believe for one moment that the SA Constitution means to prioritise people from other countries over South Africans. And if it does, then it must be changed, because SA does not exist to be abused by people from other countries for their own purposes. And as far as the opposition parties are concerned, they have an obligation towards their voters to take this to the Consitutional Court if necessary, and if the Constitutional Court really declares that our facilities must be open for all, then the Constitution will need to be revised to only give these rights to citizens and, at most, legal immigrants. Fact is that services need to be planned, and for that SA needs to be able to count who is has to be catered for, so the planning can take place.

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