Operation Dudula

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Operation Dudula Protest in Diepkloof in February 2022. Photo: Gallo Images/Daily Maverick/Felix Dlangamandla

Operation Dudula is a South African anti-immigration movement and vigilante group whose stated aims are to fight illegal immigration and illicit drug dealers and other criminals in South Africa. The movement was founded in Soweto a few months after the July 2021 riots that erupted when former president Jacob Zuma was sentenced to jail for contempt of court.

The movement uses the slogan "Put South Africans First" which is itself the name of a movement that inspired the founding of Operation Dudula. The Put South Africans movement popularised anti-immigrant campaigns on social media later expressing itself with physical protests.

The prominent leader of Operation Dudula was Nhlanhla Lux and he was known for leading protests against illegal immigration and mobs that make vigilante searches of illegal immigrants, drug dealers, and other criminals. In July 2022 however, Nhlanhla Lux and Operation Dudula announced that they had separated over some differences.

It is also known for visiting businesses purportedly employing illegal immigrants and demanding that they release the workers. Operation Dudula argues that such businesses must employ South Africans.

Operation Dudula has often been criticised as being Xenophobic and Afriphobic.

The word 'Dudula' is Zulu for "push back", “force out” or “knock down”.

According to Operation Dudula, its campaign is driven by the burden placed on public health services, job opportunities and social grants due to an “influx of illegal immigrants”.[1]

Operation Dudula has acted against immigrants in Johannesburg but has called on other communities in other cities to also fight in their areas.

The movement has been supported by notable figures such as Patriotic Alliance leader Kenny Kunene.

The group has been linked to incidents of violence in townships against foreigners, who come from all over Africa, including Nigeria and countries in southern Africa.[2]


By SA President Cyril Ramaphosa

In late March 2022, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa said that those behind Operation Dudula were contravening the law. "We cannot allow a situation where we are going to get people who will embark on vigilantism to deal with a problem, a social problem," he said. [2]


Julius Malema and the EFF have led criticism against Operation Dudula and its leader Nhlanhla Lux arguing that Africans must not be considered foreigners in South Africa and that the cause of poverty amoung black communities is illegal African immigrants but white monopoly capital and lack of pan-African leadership by the ruling ANC government.

Response to criticism

Operation Dudula has denied that it is a vigilante group driven by xenophobia or specifically focused on African nationals. It claims that they are “cleaning up communities” and “providing opportunities” to South Africans marginalised by the national government.[1]

Nhlanhla Lux has dismissed Julius Malema's criticism as driven by jealousy at the rapid growth of Operation Dudula and taking the limelight from Malema and the EFF.

Significant events

Nhlanhla Lux addresses supporters after release on bail on 28 March 2022
  • Following charges laid against the Operation Dudula leader by Victor Ramerafe (with support from the Economic Freedom Fighters) Nhlanhla Lux was arrested on 25 March 2022. He was charged with theft and leading a vigilante raid on Ramerafe's Soweto home, accusing him of selling drugs. He spent the weekend in police cells and was released on R1,500 bail on Monday 28 March. Following the release, Nhlanhla Lux addressed a crowd of supporters vowing not to stop the drive against illegal immigrants.
  • Following the release of Nhlanhla Lux Operation Dudula secretary general Zandile Dabula said groups such as Operation Fake Mthetho and Soweto Parliament, which the South African Human Rights Commission slammed for releasing a video featuring Dlamini warning immigrants not to open new spaza shops in Soweto, had also collaborated in Operation Dudula’s programme.[3]
  • Following the mob killing of Zimbabwean immigrant Elvis Nyathi on 6 April 2022, Operation Dudula Movement leader, Nhlanhla Lux tweeted "can't cry for this 1 Zim guy bcos my tears😭 ran out crying for the 7 South Africans 🇿🇦 that were killed by Zimbabweans. It's disgusting how this 1 death is enjoying more media, political attention & sympathy over the 7 SA deaths 🤮 May they ALL 🇿🇦🇿🇼 rest in PEACE![4]
  • Days following the murder of Elvis Nyathi, Thabang Molefe identified in sa media as part of ANC Youth League leadership spoke to the media after a meeting with the Minister of Home Affairs to discuss the aftermath of the murder. Molefe told the media that he wanted all Zimbabweans to leave South Africa, including those with legal documentation.[5]
Thabang Molefe says he wants all Zimbabweans to leave South Africa
  • In June 2022, members of Operation Dudula marched to Park Station to demand that the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) allow only South African vendors to trade. The group later changed its stance and called for the removal of all informal traders including South Africans. The move led to traders not being allowed to trade for about 3 weeks.[6]
  • In July 2022, Nhlanhla "Lux" and Operation Dudula announced their split in a joint statement. They said they were separating due to "opposing views on undocumented foreign nationals." Leading up to the announcement, Nhalnhla Lux had said he was leaving the the group to focus on his work at Soweto Parliament.[6]
  • In early October 2022, an Operation Dudula member was reportedly shot after a bus the group was traveling in was shot at several times. The incident happened in Limpopo Province.[7]
  • In October 2022, Operation Dudula disrupted a church service held by Mapostori (a religious group that wears white garments and holds its church services in open areas usually in natural fields.) In a video, Dudula members were seen and heard yelling at the congregants telling them to go back to their countries of origin and perform such services there.[8]
  • In January 2023, Operation Dudula announced that it would camp outside schools to prevent undocumented foreign children and teachers to be part of day 1 of school.[9]

Operation Dudula Leaders

  • Nhlanhla Lux
  • Dan Radebe
  • Zandile Dabula


  1. 1.0 1.1 What is Operation Dudula, South Africa’s anti-migration vigilante?, Aljazeera, Published: 8 April 2022, Accessed: 8 April 2022
  2. 2.0 2.1 Anti-migrant vigilante group Dudula stokes tensions in South Africa, Reuters, Published: 31 March 2022, Accessed: 8 April 2022
  3. Operation Dudula vows to continue drive against illegal immigrants after leader gets bail, M&G, Published: 28 March 2022, Accessed: 8 April 2022
  4. can't cry for this 1 Zim guy bcos my tears😭 ran out, Twitter, Published: 8 April 2022, Accessed: 8 April 2022
  5. ANC Youth League leader Thabang Molefe addresses the journalists in Diepsloot on Friday., Sowetan Live on Twitter, Published: 8 April 2022, Accessed: 10 April 2022
  6. 6.0 6.1 Dlamini and Operation Dudula part ways over opposing views on foreign nationals, News24, Published: 26 July 2022, Accessed: 12 Jan 2023
  7. No arrest in Operation Dudula fatal shooting [UPDATE], South African, Published:2 October 2023, Accessed: 12 Jan 2023
  8. WATCH: Operation Dudula disrupts Zimbabwean bush church, South African, Published:2 October 2023, Accessed: 12 Jan 2023
  9. Operation Dudula to camp outside Gauteng schools, South African, Published:11 Jan 2023, Accessed: 12 Jan 2023

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