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How South African anger has focused on foreigners

The Star | Alexandra is one of the poorest parts of the country, but residents can view the towering buildings of Sandton, one of the continent's richest commercial districts, just a few kilometers away from their shacks. As a result, individuals from all across South Africa and neighboring countries migrate to the township in order to work.

The Alexandra Dudula Movement and Operation Dudula, two contentious organisations that advocate against undocumented foreign nationals, have lately arisen, and support appears to be growing among South African communities that feel marginalized.

There are fears that their initiatives would spark a new wave of xenophobic violence across the country.

What are the goals of these organizations?

Poverty is the greatest source of tension, as many South Africans believe - correctly or incorrectly - that outsiders are to blame for their problems.

Dudula is a Zulu word that loosely translates to "push back" or "drive back," which gives you an idea of what they desire.

Though the two organizations are independent, they are both motivated by the same goal: to force illegal African migrants out of their areas.

They believe that by doing so, they will ensure that South Africans have access to jobs and economic prospects.

What are the distinctions between the two groups?

Last year, the Alexandra Dudula Movement was created. Foreign immigrants were allegedly illegally inhabiting government-issued housing in Alexandra, which was supposed to be for poor citizens, according to the people behind it.

However, the campaign has grown to include a call for all undocumented African migrants in Alexandra to quit trading. Last month, the movement shut down all stalls owned by foreign nationals who couldn't present the proper paperwork or a valid passport to run their company.

When the foreigners were forced to leave, they assigned the stalls to South Africans, such as Alexandra resident Wendy Sithole, who began selling vegetables.

"We, the people of South Africa, are jobless and hungry. All we want is to find work as well "She informed the BBC about it. "How do they think we'll make it in our own country?"

Authorities are examining cases of public disruption and intimidation because not all of the group's acts have been legitimate.

Operation Dudula is situated in the Soweto district of Johannesburg, which is more than 25 kilometers (16 miles) away on the other side of the city.

It was founded by Nhlanhla Lux Dlamini, 33, and gained notoriety in June when citizens of Soweto marched through the township on a "clean-up" operation.

It went after suspected drug dealers and those who were allegedly trespassing on government land.

However, the group's breadth of interest has broadened, just as it did in Alexandra.

Members now want many of South Africa's foreign shop owners to close up shop and leave the country.

Small enterprises, such as restaurants and shops, are also expected to hire exclusively South Africans. This is because protesters feel that these establishments neglect South Africans in favor of hiring undocumented workers who can be paid less than the minimum wage.

Authorities claim that while this may occur in some locations, it is not a widespread issue.

Both parties have claimed that their motivations are xenophobic, claiming that they are just trying to defend South Africans' livelihoods, which they claim the African National Congress (ANC) government is failing to achieve.

They both claim to be independent of any political party.

How has the public reacted?

Foreigners get the impression that they are being blamed for larger issues.

"We don't take anyone's job; we make our own opportunities," Mozambican Sam Manane, who has been selling snacks in Alexandra for the past ten years, told the BBC.

"It's just that we're being watched."

The national government has yet to respond, although the ANC's David Makhura, the leader of Gauteng province, which encompasses Johannesburg, has expressed alarm about recent violence against foreign nationals in Alexandra. He urged civil society organizations to collaborate with the government in order to promote peace and tolerance.

However, some opposition groups are attempting to capitalize on the situation.

The newly created Patriotic Alliance (PA), led by ex-prisoner Gayton McKenzie, is taking a harsh stance. All unauthorized migrants should leave the country, according to the PA, which has some local council seats but has not yet run in a national election.

Members of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters went to eateries in Johannesburg unannounced earlier this year to "inspect" the ratio of foreign employees employed and put pressure on businesses to hire more South Africans.

On the subject of verifying people's status, the government has stated that it is doing more to guarantee that they have the proper papers, but that this will take time.

What is the reason behind this now?

This is not the first time that anti-foreigner prejudice has risen in South Africa.

In 2008, there was a surge of attacks against refugees and migrants across the country, with more than 60 people reported slain and others displaced.

In 2015, there were more outbreaks of violence against non-South Africans, particularly in the cities of Durban and Johannesburg, prompting the army to be sent to quell the unrest.

Hundreds of Nigerians fled the country three years ago as a result of an increase in attacks on foreigners.

It's unclear why the issue has resurfaced, but the impact of Covid-19 mitigating measures has compounded South Africa's various economic issues, resulting in the loss of countless jobs and a steep rise in the cost of living.

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