South African Vigilante Group Register as Political Party, Sets Sights on Next Year’s Elections
Operation Dudula, an anti-migrant vigilante group in South Africa, is now officially a political party. Originating from Johannesburg’s Soweto township following the 2021 riots, the group has made its stance clear: they want all unofficial foreign nationals out. With plans to participate in the upcoming general elections by running candidates in 1,500 of the country’s voting districts, their political ambitions are clear.
Operation Dudula: A History of Controversy
The group’s history is mired in allegations of hate speech and violence. Operation Dudula has been notorious for staging protests outside embassies and conducting door-to-door searches of businesses in less affluent areas, demanding identity documents. Such actions have been linked to xenophobic attacks and looting, leading to one member being convicted of hate speech.
Claims of Broad Support and Softening Tactics
Despite its controversial nature, Operation Dudula claims to have a significant following, boasting a presence in seven of South Africa’s nine provinces. Isaac Lesole, the group’s spokesperson, has suggested that the transition from a civil movement to a political party will mean a softening of tactics. However, their core ideology — viewing illegal immigrants as criminals — remains steadfast.
Operation Dudula’s actions have not gone unnoticed by civil society groups, who have taken legal action against the group for unlawful evictions and conducting unauthorized citizenship checks. A court date has yet to be set, and the legal battle continues.
Migration Situation in South Africa
It’s estimated that around 3.95 million immigrants call South Africa home. The country’s constitution grants limited rights to all individuals within its borders, making the term “illegal foreigner” inaccurate and misleading.
Operation Dudula’s emergence can be traced back to the riots in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng provinces in June 2021. Citizens banded together to protect businesses from looters, leading to the formation of vigilante groups such as Operation Dudula. Experts suggest that high rates of corruption, unemployment, and violence in South Africa have created conditions conducive to the growth of such groups.
Potential Influence of Operation Dudula
While Operation Dudula is not expected to win a majority in the upcoming election, its influence could grow due to the fractured nature of South African politics. In a political landscape where small parties can sway the formation of coalition governments, even a minority group like Operation Dudula could hold significant sway.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC), grappling with declining support due to corruption scandals, increasing inequality, high unemployment, and violent crime, has begun to mirror the rhetoric of Operation Dudula in an attempt to bolster its electoral chances. This growing trend in South African politics has seen other political figures also adopting xenophobic stances. Despite this shift, critics maintain that Operation Dudula is a criminal group that should be curtailed.
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