Operation what?

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By Kabelo Mollo

There is something brewing in President Ramaphosa’s republic… It’s something sinister in my view, but its popularity has become legend. Every week we see the poster child and leader on our screens, big or small. Every week we are confronted by the matter on social media.

If you guessed Operation Dudula you guessed right. Yesterday night as I waited to watch my beloved Manchester United get annihilated with barely a whimper I joined a twitter space to hear out and ventilate the views of Basotho on what the Dudula movement would mean for Basotho living in South Africa.

Lesotho and South Africa have a unique relationship. Naturally. A country within a country is such a rare occurrence it is not surprising that relations will be out of the ordinary. Of course there will be projects where the two countries will partner, most obviously the LHDA for Gauteng’s water provision and perhaps the lesser known Maloti/Drakensburg route in terms of tourism and many others. I often tell the story of the special edition “little black book” publication which highlighted black executives and movers and shakers in the corporate world. I think it was part aspirational for black youth and partly as a network platform for those in and around the corporate world.

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Anyway, the point Is, the one year I gave myself time to page through the book and noted a number of Basotho who had been profiled. I think the year was 2002. Both my father and brother were featured. It struck me even then that so many Basotho were propping up the South African economy. That was just the white collar workers, the numbers in the blue collar sector might have been even more staggering.

Conversely South Africans have lived, studied and even worked here for as long as I can remember. South African companies have always plied their trades in the kingdom with little to no fuss. Obviously Lesotho and Basotho accepted fighters in their struggle for liberation during the Apartheid years. Those freedom fighters by definition would have been illegal immigrants as they would either have false or no travel documents. Many were in transit, but as many came to hide in plain sight.

And so, back to the Operation Dudula movement who this week trained their sights on illegal immigrants from Lesotho whom they claim are the driving force behind illegal mining as well as claims that they are an armed militia going around terrorizing peaceful South Africans in South Africa, Soweto specifically. Every formal designation afforded the opportunity to opine on the crime situation specific to drugs and the like refutes the beliefs of the Dudula movement and their leadership.

There is no data to first back their claims on crime and then drugs being the preserve of immigrants. The data also doesn’t support the idea that foreigners have stolen South African jobs. I have yet to find research on the illegal mines and miners though I suppose it stands to reason that with Basotho having been miners before they might be exploited once again. The armed militia conversation is also a strange one in that said group is supposed to be armed with AK-47s and other semi-automatic weapons. For me it begs a couple of questions, how does anybody know they are an armed group, and how do they know they are Basotho? And if they are how does anybody know they aren’t Basotho that have legally acquired South African IDs which is the case with so many people.

The Dudula movement and its leadership have proved the theory that nature doesn’t allow for a leadership vacuum. They have stepped in to the vacuum left by an arm’s length ruling party in South Africa. So engulfed in petty factional squabbles and corrupt practices that they have outsourced community leadership to anyone willing to put on a jumper titled “Messiah”. We watched the rise of the “Soweto parliament” during the riots and looting once again brought about by a lack of leadership in the South African body politic and since then the profile of the leader, one Nhlanhla Lux has grown astronomically thanks in no small part to a sensation seeking new media and a traditional media trying not to fall too far behind the hype of said new media.

I’m very interested in how this situation between Dudula and the supposed militia will play out. Who will blink first and what will the narrative be? Much will be revealed in the coming days, and once the dust has settled we will need to revisit the question of the unique relationship between South Africa and Lesotho, and remind the citizenry of the two nations why collaboration is better than opposition.