COMMANDERS of an ultra-nationalist group pushing Operation Dudula against Zimbabwean immigrants have dismissed the notion that South Africans are generally lazy and choosy when it comes to job opportunities.
This comes as Zimbabwean nationals living in SA are being threatened and coerced into leaving the country.
Many startled residents from Diepkloof in Soweto this week woke up to the scenes of a mop-up operation aimed at removing illegal foreign nationals and South Africans who sell goods without permits while occupying stands at the Bara taxi rank.
The removal of illegal foreigners or those without permits from townships and surrounding suburbs is part of a clean-up campaign called Operation Dudula, and spearheaded by the South African National Civic Organisation and Community Policing Forum.
Nhlanhla Lux Dlamini of Operation Dudula and his followers have been removing foreign traders and locals from the Bara taxi rank throughout the past week, and in some of the videos members can be seen burning boxes and goods that have been left behind.
The Sunday Independent published photos of empty vending stalls and goods belonging to illegal hawkers who were being removed. Most of these are Zimbabweans.
Speaking about the purpose of the operation, Dlamini said it was important for the law to be followed but in order for that to happen, the government system needs to be lawful.
“Our friends from Zimbabwe shouldn’t take six years to know that you need a permit to be able to trade at Bara taxi rank.
“They still don’t know what a permit looks like but that’s the fault of our government. We’ve got a government that is rotten to the core, so it is our system that needs fixing.
“While 10% of the hawkers who were removed here were South African, we want South Africans to be put first,” he said.
“We want South Africans to be put first”
Another Operation Dudula members and South Africa hawker, Thulani Hauhatsi dismissed the notion that South Africans were angry at losing jobs opportunities to more enterprising Zimbabweans.
“This operation has been in existence for a while. We are tired of these people (illegal immigrants). I’ve been a hawker for many years here at Bara taxi rank and illegal immigrants take up a large percentage of our hawking space here,” he said.
On the popular notion that South Africans are lazy, hence foreigners are the ones working hard and plying their trade on the streets, Hauhatsi said: “We are not lazy. We want job opportunities. The problem is that people who come here from Zimbabwe are hired over our people.
“When our people refuse to work for peanuts, they are called lazy. So obviously it would be easier to hire a much more desperate Zimbabwean who would take that very job that pays peanuts, over the South African who wouldn’t,” he said.
“When our people refuse to work for peanuts, they are called lazy.”
When asked if he had a license to trade, Hauhatsi said he doesn’t have one because he believes it is too expensive, and he wouldn’t be able to afford it.
“I would need around R3 000 for a permit. How would I be able to afford that when I don’t work? It’s like applying for a job and being asked to fork out money. That can’t make sense,” he said.
According to the City of Joburg, if you are a hawker selling food and meals and you move from place to place or sell from a vehicle, you need a licence.
Licenses to trade plus a once-off application fee needs to be paid to Joburg City’s trade licence department for a person to qualify to operate a stall at the taxi ranks.
An emotional Tiny Moyo, who was one of the Zimbabwean nationals being chased away, was seen packing up her goods on Wednesday.
“This all started on Monday… It’s been a tough week for us. I don’t know what to do. Things are bad at home. This is my livelihood. Why do they have to treat us like us? This is painful. I don’t know what to do or where to go from here,” she said.
There seems to be a push to remove illegal foreign traders or those selling expired goods in their stores in many areas, with members of the Patriotic Front working with locals, while Lead SA with Herman Mashaba at the helm, are tackling the problems in Joburg’s CBD.
Amir Sheikh of the African Diaspora Forum said the best way for the situation regarding illegal migration to be fixed is to first handle the difficult economic and political matters back in the countries where the people migrate from, such as in the case of Zimbabweans to make a decent living in their own country.
“There are thousands of people detained on the Zimbabwean side of the border. The South African government has come down hard on the matter. There are three roadblocks along the Beitbridge border. These roadblocks are designed to enforce regulations on immigration into the country.
“Zimbabweans living in South Africa say the best way to move forward is to fix the harsh economic and political situation back home so they can return home instead of going to South Africa to look for jobs,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean embassy and two of its consulates received reports from expatriates in SA that they received threats including forced eviction if they don’t leave by a certain date, according to a statement on the foreign ministry’s Twitter feed on Wednesday.
“The embassy and the consulates urge all Zimbabwe nationals in the Republic of South Africa to be vigilant and to be law abiding,” it said.
SA has a difficult relationship with migrants from elsewhere on the continent drawn to its relative wealth. In 2008, about 60 people died and 50,000 were displaced in a wave of xenophobic violence that saw foreigners blamed for issues ranging from high unemployment to poor government services.
There were similar riots in 2015 and again in 2019, when President Cyril Ramaphosa was forced to apologise to other countries appalled by the treatment of their nationals.
The country of about 60-million people is home to almost 3-million migrants, according to government and UN data.