Foreign nationals operating businesses in Alexandra say they are trying to feed their families and not to take jobs from South Africans following violent clashes in the suburb.
On Monday, hawkers and shops owned by foreign nationals across the street from the Pan Africa Mall were forced to close after a group of about 50 residents, who said that they were members of the Dudula Movement, took to the streets and forced them to close.
“I worked in this area since 2000, before the mall was built, I was doing people’s hair. What is confusing is that they come and say they are Dudula and they come and kick us out because we are foreign nationals,” said Anna Solomon, a Mozambican national.
Solomon said: “We want to work together with them to help each other out and they don’t want that. What are we supposed to do to get something to eat and feed our children because we have children who are in school? We pay rent where we live. We want to know what to do in this situation.
“The South African people came and removed our things and all anyone here wants to do is pay rent and school fees and transport for our children to go to school. I want to make space for everyone to work together,” added Alfredo Simbine, who alleged his brother was attacked.”
Just like Solomon, Simbine is also from Mozambique.
‘GROWING FOR YEARS’
The Dudula Movement (not to be confused with Operation Dudula) is made up of people, mainly Alex residents who, for the last three weeks, have been closing stores they said were owned by foreign nationals to “take the economy back from foreigners”.
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“The township economy was for foreign nationals and now we have decided to take the township economy back and also engage with law enforcement so that they can be involved in Alexandra.
“As the community, we can’t identify foreign nationals, but when we go to them some of them tell us that they are from Mozambique and Angola.
“We started this in 1994, and it has been growing for years. This thing is too much in our country where you find foreign nationals dominating us,” said Simon Taatsi, who identified himself as the movement’s chairperson.
“We will lead with example when we say foreign nationals must go. The undocumented foreign nationals must go. We know that we have been called criminals as the Dudula Movement and Operation Fiyela, but we are ready to let the state do its job.
“If they want to charge us, let them charge. If they want to arrest, they are allowed to arrest, but what will remain and those who remain will carry on with the struggle so that the people of Alexandra don’t remain in fear of foreign nationals,” he added.
WORKING ‘FOR THE COMMUNITY’
Tensions were at a high on Monday when the movement tried to close a local supermarket owned by foreign nationals.
Zet Ndlovu, a South African working at the store, stood firmly, saying they were not going to close the store as members of Dudula confronted him.
“This shop works for the community. They donate food for free, but why are they bringing Dudula here. Why are they closing shops that work for the community?”
He said: “These shops pay rent here and it costs us money when they try and close the shop. The owner of this shop is a foreign national, people from outside this country invest money into this country. If they leave, what will people eat.”
Early in the day, there were violent clashes between Dudula members and foreign nationals, which resulted in injuries.
Lebohang Sema, who had to get stitches on her head after she was hit with a brick, alleged they were attacked, which led to further clashes.
PUBLIC VIOLENCE, CLASHES
“I was unarmed, and I feel like it is an injustice because you cannot attack people in their own country who are unarmed. We are saying please go and get the correct paperwork and enter the country with your correct paperwork.
By Monday evening, the situation had calmed down as a police contingent stood guard near the stores.
Police spokesperson, Brigadier Brenda Muridili, said that they had opened a case of public violence after a clash “between a group calling themselves Dudula Movement and foreign national vendors”.
She added: “Four people were injured during the clashes – three Mozambican men aged, between 36 and 52, as well as a South African aged 38 years. The injured people were taken to a clinic for medical treatment.”
One suspect, a South African aged 23, was arrested for possession of an imitation firearm. He was expected to appear in court soon.