On Saturday, 26 March 2022, recently-formed coalition, Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia (KAAX) organised different communities, organisations and movements to come together in protest and march against the growing xenophobia continuing to spread in South Africa, currently under the banner of Operation Dudula.
The march was supposed to have taken place on Human Rights Day on 21 March 2022, but was banned just a few days before by the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) ostensibly due to ‘threats of violence which were likely to get out hand’. But after KAAX took the matter to the High Court, the High Court ruled on 25 March that the march could go ahead on 26 March, thus overturning the JMPD’s ban.
The march attendees gathered at Pieter Roos Park in Parktown, and then moved through Hillbrow to Newtown (in the Johannesburg CBD). KAAX’s memorandum of demands (MoD) was submitted to representatives at Hillbrow Police Station and at Johannesburg Central Police Station (in Newtown). After handing over the MoD to the reps in Newtown, the marchers moved to disperse at Mary Fitzgerald Square.
In the memorandum delivered and read out, KAAX’s said: “We call upon the South African Government and Police Services to show leadership by taking action against those fueling violence and xenophobic hatred…”
According to the KAAX Memo, “… under the banner of ‘Operation Dudula’… This group has also been responsible for consistent hate speech, incitement to violence against so-called ‘illegal’ immigrants, as well as inhumane acts of harassment and violence against children, women and men, simply because they are not South African citizens.”
“We are marching today to register our rejection of the actions of ‘Operation Dudula’ and all other such acts – whether verbal or physical – that are dividing Africans on our continent by spreading hatred, xenophobia division, greed and violence. These acts have continued in many instances with impunity.”
Some of the demands in the MoD include the following: “The JMPD and SAPS must enforce the law equally and do their job of protecting the rights to gather and protest, that social services are made accessible and affordable for all regardless of nationality”; that the Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi steps down and resigns with immediate effect, and that “President [Cyril Ramaphosa] must lead with the implementation of the National Action Plan to Combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerances.”
Some of the organisations present at the march in support of KAAX include: African Diaspora Workers Network (ADWN), One Voice of Hawkers Association, General Industrial Workers Union South Africa (GIWUSA), Khanya College, Sisonke Revolutionary Movement, Casual Worker Advice Office (CWAO), the Palestinian Solidarity Alliance (PSA), South African Trade Union Federation (SAFTU), Workers Socialist Party (WASP), Socialist Youth Movement and the United Front. The march was dominated by young activists, with reports of about 400-500 people attending.
Along the way, community members in the Hillbrow area who had not heard about the protest also joined the march, and turning back to return to their original plans towards the Newtown area. Even some participants of a vaccination campaign taking place in the Hillbrow area joined to voice the vaccination apartheid issue against African nationals.
Janet Munakamwe from KAAX and the African Diaspora Workers Network, an organisation that supports migrant workers locally and nationally, was one of the comrades who read out the MoD before handing over. Munakamwe said that the goal for them is to get involved in raising awareness against xenophobia. “Everyone who care and believes in one humanity [must] come together to get rid of xenophobia and vigilantes,” she said.
Another young activist by the name of Lucky Thwala said “It is painful to see migrants being treated unfairly, being killed and insulted because of the government’s failure to unite us as Africans. [We need] to be one as migrants are also our sisters and brothers.”
Thwala is a youth leader from Sisonke Revolutionary Movement, a community-based organisation based in Orange Farm (in the south of Gauteng). He concluded; “… [we must] stand together to protect each other and organise ourselves to avoid xenophobic attacks”.
When asked about what he hoped the march had achieved, John Appolis, the General Secretary of the General Industrial Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA), said “we hope to raise awareness amongst the public in South Africa, the working class in general about the problem of xenophobia because we have seen that there are organisations like Operation Dudula who are trying to stoke up xenophobic sentiments against migrants and we want to say that as GIWUSA and as the coalition that migrants are welcome in South Africa, they have a right to stay in South Africa and they have a right to share the wealth in South Africa.”
In the morning of the march, news spread that there were some supporters of Operation Dudula who were staging a demonstration outside of Johannesburg Central Police Station, where their arrested leader, Nhlanhla ‘Lux’ Dhlamini, was being held. When the march reached the police station, the KAAX protestors were directed by SAPS and JMPD to a separate entrance to where the Dudula supporters were standing. The SAPS and JMPD maintained a high presence in the streets surrounding the station.
The march was peaceful throughout the day and went ahead without incident.
This article was compiled using reports submitted on 30-31 March 2022, with additional information added later. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.