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Norwood joins forces against Operation Dudula invasion



On Sunday, 27 November, a cavalcade of military-type vehicles drove through a dead quiet Norwood strip, a scene reminiscent of a military coup. It was, in fact, Community Active Protection (CAP) en route to ensure that members of the menacing anti-immigrant vigilante group, Operation Dudula, didn’t harm anyone in their protest on the usually bustling street.

You could hear a pin drop as the street came to a virtual early morning standstill when marked and unmarked CAP special intervention vehicles rolled up in a show of force.

Leading the convoy was a CAP Nyala (an ambush protected 4×4 armoured personnel carrier) with members of CAP’s riot unit equipped with armadillo suits, shields, and riot gear, including non-lethal weapons for the disbursement of violent crowds.

Some CAP vehicles were fitted with rapid deployment razor coil barriers to prevent protesters from entering residential areas, all of which rolled in with military precision.

It was the culmination of an ongoing fight against crime and grime in Johannesburg’s multicultural, trendy Norwood. The suburb’s popular business strip, Grant Avenue, is experiencing spiralling upheaval.

Recent clashes between local car guards and vagrants, with gung-ho, independent street security guards – many of whom are said to be foreign nationals – have provoked the ire of the anti-immigrant vigilante group, Operation Dudula.

Norwood was on tenterhooks last Sunday in anticipation of a planned protest by Operation Dudula, demanding that businesses in the area refrain from employing foreign nationals.

Several businesses closed shop for fear of intimidation by protesters, who had made their presence felt in recent days.

According to a mailer put out by the Norwood Oaklands Residents Association (NORA), business owners established a Grant Avenue security initiative “to protect businesses, their clients, and customers from harassment and ensure a good experience for shoppers.

“Unfortunately, about two weeks ago, violent protests took place against the security initiative, which resulted in two members of Premium Security Services being arrested. As a result, Premium was forced to discontinue operations on Grant Avenue,” the letter said.

According to witnesses, there was an incident of assault by “foreign national security guards” on a South African car guard who laid a complaint with police, leading to the arrests.

Soon after this incident, businesses started getting letters of demand from Operation Dudula followed by the announcement of the planned protest.

On Sunday, a few hundred Dudula protesters assembled at the Pikitup depot, before moving towards the Pick n Pay on Louis Botha Avenue and descending on Grant Avenue and then on to the Houghton Hotel.

Lead by the chairperson of the Orange Grove branch of Operation Dudula, Aupa Ngwato, letters of memorandum were handed out to various business owners.

The letter threatened that this was the first phase of its programme, and stipulated that it wouldn’t hesitate to embark on phase two should its demands not be met. “We’re more than certain that most of you have taken deliberate actions not to employ South African citizens. This agenda has given rise to dissatisfaction among job seeking South Africans. The time has come to evoke change.”

Accusing businesses of “creating unnecessary chaos”, Operation Dudula gave them 10 days to “rectify the situation”, or else.

There were no incidents during Sunday’s protest, but residents and business owners were left rattled.

One business owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he closed his shop during the protest. “There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty. Dudula is quite threatening and has made life unpleasant,” he said.

On Tuesday, several business owners met to discuss a much-needed security solution for the area and the reinvigoration of the existing business forum to unite stakeholders.

Wayne Preston, the chairperson of the Norwood Community Police Forum, told the SA Jewish Report that the forum had met business owners and representatives from the Dudula Operation. “The aim is to find common ground so that there’s a fluent not aggravated situation, where business owners can feel comfortable to communicate with Dudula and try to ensure Dudula refrains from using intimidating tactics to get its message across,” he said.

Operation Dudula sprang up in and around Soweto a little over a year ago, and has been accused of fuelling xenophobic sentiments. Its members have over the past several months been issuing eviction notices to foreign-owned or run shops in Orange Grove, Yeoville, and other areas in Johannesburg. They have staged “clean-up” marches through Johannesburg, including the evictions of immigrants from houses and abandoned or hijacked buildings where they have found refuge. These campaigns have led to sporadic looting of migrant-owned shops, and the eviction of some residents.

In another letter given to some business owners, the organisation appealed for donations of R5 000 to serve lunch to its members on the day of the protests.

A concerned resident who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “I live in a nearby suburb, but I’m in Norwood often and I see the gradual degradation daily. People are harassed by vagrants and car guards. It’s unpleasant. I’m concerned for the area. I’d like to see stakeholders getting together and devising plans for the betterment of the entire area so that people can live safely and have a good time without being harassed.”

Said another, “Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Norwood has lost its sense of community. Now, this Dudula crew has awakened everyone’s need to work together. We need a united front. We saw a bit of this over Halloween, in which there was a great turnout across the board, but we have a long way to go.”

NORA said in a statement, “We don’t support the actions of Operation Dudula, which seek to intimidate legitimate business owners and members of our community. We cannot have a group which isn’t of the community and for the community disrupting business and threatening the safety of customers and residents in order to pursue a political agenda.”

Sean Jammy of CAP said, “While we understand that people crave a quick-fix solution to safety and an end to the degradation of services in public spaces, we urge them to act responsibly and to adopt a security solution that’s legal, acts within the confines of the law, and is sustainable.”

Taryn Rose, a Norwood resident, said, “Norwood is a diverse, dynamic community. The events of the recent past have brought these people together, united in seeing as little disruption to everyday life, where people can live in peace, safety, and harmony.” She said the business forum would hold further meetings to face these challenges together.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Torry

    Feb 1, 2023 at 2:56 pm

    You are deliberately displacing south Africans
    From their birthright by putting them against
    Foreigners…chickens will soon come home to roast.

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