More than 300 foreign nationals who were living in Msibi House, a hijacked building in New Doornfontein in Johannesburg, are homeless after they were allegedly forcefully removed by a group claiming to be Operation Dudula members.
The evictions allegedly took place on Saturday at about 11am.
Those evicted include children, blind and other disabled residents.
One of the victims, Gertrude Mushipe, is a beggar. She said while out on the street, she was called by a neighbour who alerted her to the incident.
“We found a lot of Dudula guys at our place. They were inside our flats and they took everything of ours,” she said.
“There are many people living there, more than 300. We live with some disabled people, small children and babies. When they came into our place they destroyed everything. They took everything. They beat us and we ran away. We went outside and left them inside. They came out holding our bags.”
The mother of one said she felt humiliated. She is now battling to find a place for herself and her six-year-old child, who witnessed the incident.
“Christmas is coming. We don’t have money. We don’t have any clothes and even our babies are suffering. We are sitting outside, we don’t know what to do.”
Susan Tasarirabona, who had also lived in the building, said on Saturday, residents who were working received a call to return home.
Tasarirabona’s job is to accompany blind beggars.
“They said ‘come, we have a big problem — Dudula people have come’. When they came they started beating everybody and told them to get their things out. They beat this other disabled woman and threatened to rape her,” Tasarirabona alleged.
“When they took out our things, we went to the park and they came back again at night and started beating us and taking our money, blankets, everything.
“There were a lot of people and they were only men. There were more than 30 and some of them were wearing white T-shirts. They said they are Dudula men,” she said.
Tasarirabona said they went to Jeppe police station to report the matter but alleged they were denied assistance. The same allegedly happened at Johannesburg Central police station.
“They refused to attend to us and said go back to your country,” she claimed.
Police were yet to comment on these allegations.
The mother of twins, including one who is disabled, said the building’s residents were all Zimbabwean nationals.
TimesLIVE approached officials of Operation Dudula about the incident.
The group responded with a voice note by national deputy chairperson Dan Radebe announcing a suspension of operations from midnight on December 16.
“Operation Dudula will be going on recession which means therefore suspending all the operations and the activities of Operation Dudula for the purpose of giving our members and supporters an opportunity to have this festive season with family and their loved ones, and those who will be travelling long distances.
“Anyone who will engage in any activity during this period, it will be outside Dudula’s mandate, up until Dudula returns to full activity on January 4 2023. We are therefore requesting all our members to enjoy … Let’s refrain from confrontations. Let’s refrain from operations that were not authorised by Operation Dudula,” Radebe was heard saying.
The group did not confirm or deny its members were behind the evictions.
The African Diaspora Workers Network (ADWN) has stepped in to assist the victims. Organisation chairperson Dr Janet Munakamwe said they had to try to find temporary accommodation on Monday night for the group, as it was raining.
She said the price of available accommodation shot up to about R2,500 per room.
“Because of their vulnerability … they are struggling to even raise money for their daily upkeep. We had no options. We ended up having to absorb everyone because the security at the park was threatening to unleash the riot water [cannon] if anyone was still going to be there,” she said.
Some of the victims were fortunate to have family they could stay with.
Munakamwe said after thinking they had made progress in placing the victims, they were “now back to zero”, as some buildings were refusing to accommodate blind people.
“We are appealing to anyone who can assist. So far we just had a contribution of R500 rent. We also requested for the guys to be temporarily accommodated last night. Right now I am stuck. It’s a real crisis,” she said.