Members of Operation Dudula conducted a “blitz” in the Pietermaritzburg city centre to identify illegal and undocumented foreign nationals on Wednesday.
The operation, targeted the main streets, including Church, saw more than 30 Dudula members, accompanied by officers from the Jabu Ndlovu Street police station.
However, the police stayed in their vehicles while Operation Dudula members entered the shops and approached street vendors demanding immigration documents or passports.
Those who were found not in possession of the documents, were escorted by Dudula members to the police vans.
Speaking to The Witness, Operation Dudula member, Bheki Dzanibe, said the blitz was not meant to promote violence against foreign nationals. He said their aim was to “get rid of illegal and undocumented foreign nationals,”.
Dzanibe said the organisation first engaged with the police to accompany them while they were conducting their operation in the city. Dzanibe said over 15 illegal and undocumented foreign nationals were detained by the Pietermaritzburg police officers on Wednesday.
“What we are doing here is not a crime. We go and verify the documents of those people from other countries who are in KZN and Pietermaritzburg.
“We ask a person to produce his documentation and failure to do so leads to them getting arrested. We know that there are a number of shops and businesses that are busy employing foreigners in this city. We want to deal with this and we have come before and given them ample time to remove these people and employ locals, we are following up on that and we will be acting on it,” said Dzanibe.
In April, Dudula and the All Truck Drivers Foundation members visited businesses in the city and served them seven-day notices to remove undocumented foreign nationals from their premises. At the time, the organisations said that considering the high unemployment in South Africa, the employment of foreign nationals by local businesses was making things worse.
Dzanibe said they did have a list of businesses in the city that they would be visiting. He said some businesses had over 80% of undocumented foreign nationals employed. “That cannot be allowed. We have arrested a number of people who don’t have documents and we will let the police formally charge them. What we would have loved is to see police also taking a stand and making sure that these people are deported back to their countries.
Dzanibe said the blitz was just the start in Pietermaritzburg.
“We are still going to come back and make sure that we go to every corner of the city and demand foreigners to produce their documents and if they fail to do so, they are detained. Also, police need to start doing their job by arresting all these people who are in the country illegally,” he said.
Dzanibe said Dudula members conducted similar operations in Greytown and Hammarsdale. He said their blitz was successful as they also managed to get a number of people arrested.
A foreign national who was asked to show her citizenship status but was not arrested as she had the relevant documents, said she was shocked when the Dudula group approached her:
“It is scary to see a number of people coming at you like that because of the songs they are singing, you don’t know whether they will ask questions or just attack you. Right now I am scared. I’m always thinking that the police would be the ones coming to do these operations, not just random groups,” she added.
The police did not respond to questions at the time of publication.