Controversial anti-immigrant group Operation Dudula is expected on Saturday to launch a Western Cape branch.
The movement, led by Nhlanhla “Lux” Dlamini – also known as Nhlanhla Paballo Mohlauli – has been targeting undocumented migrants in areas with a high density of foreigners in South Africa.
Operation Dudula has been accused of stoking xenophobic sentiments over its claims that illegal immigrants are behind the country’s high unemployment rate and crime levels.
In the past, xenophobic protests in SA have morphed into violence. Attacks against foreigners left at least 62 people dead in 2008, while another seven were killed in similar unrest in 2015.
But Operation Dudula claims it only has a problem with illegal immigrants who are hired by local businesses over unemployed South Africans, and believes government is not doing enough to secure the country’s porous borders.
Saturday’s launch was set to take place at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. The event was scheduled to begin at 10 am.
Operation Dudula has already established branches in Gauteng, North West and KwaZulu-Natal.
Human Rights Watch said foreigners were often made scapegoats in SA – a country with one of the world’s most unequal societies.
Jay Naidoo, a founding member of the Cosatu, said anti-immigrant arguments did not hold up.
“Even if they were to expel all the immigrants, our level of crime would not drop, neither our level of joblessness,” he said.
A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity to AFP, said law enforcement was keeping an eye on the demonstrations.
But “the right to protest is enshrined in the country’s constitution and so far, they haven’t committed any action that required the police to enforce the law,” the source said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa in February said authorities were closely watching “pockets of groupings that are trying to foment a type of negative attitudes” towards foreigners.