Members of an anti-immigration group, #Put South Africans First, protested in Johannesburg’s Hillbrow suburb today, calling on employers to fire foreigners and employ only South Africans.
They gave local companies a week to get rid of all illegal immigrants, promising to take unspecified action against those that won’t heed their demands.
#Put South Africans First leader, Victoria Mamogolo, said they are rolling out Operation Dudula to ensure that the government follows strict South African laws, which stipulate that some jobs are reserved for locals.
Mamogolo said illegal foreigners should not work in restaurants, bars, saloons, departmental stores, vegetable markets and other places as there was no need for specialized skills in these sectors.
“We want the government to control our borders because we have a problem right now in South Africa. We are saying the government should deport all illegal immigrants who are stealing our jobs,” she said.
Mario Khumalo, another member of Put South Africa First, said Operation Dudula is designed to get rid of all illegal immigrants in order to economically empower locals.
“As South Africans who abide by the laws of the land, we want the government to follow the law. We are not breaking the law right now because all what we are doing is well-known by the government which has to get rid of illegal immigrants. As we speak right now, there are some representatives of the Ministry of Homes Affairs, including the police, who are here witnessing what we are doing.”
Police came out in large numbers after warning the group to stop demanding identity documents from people in South Africa. President Cyril Ramaphosa also told journalists a few days ago that it’s illegal for Put South Africa First to demand immigration documents from members of the public.
Vusumuzi Sibanda of the African Diaspora Forum is among people who visited Hillbrow today to monitor Operation Dudula.
Sibanda said his organization is not against peaceful street protests “as we are strongly opposed to any form of violence.”
He said, “We don’t want violence and to see people taking the law into their own hands like demanding to see identity documents or getting into people’s homes and removing them. No. That’s supposed to be done by the police and not an ordinary person.”
Millions of Zimbabweans are living and working in South Africa as economic refugees and asylees.
Thuso Khumalo contributed to this article.