They asked for 300 Rand, or just under 19 euros, says Make Nomsa. They might have left their husband alone for that. But Nomsa only had 50 Rand. They pocketed it – and still took their 43-year-old husband with them. As the Zimbabwean woman later learned, they beat Elvis Nyathi to the ground just a few meters from her hut, threw petrol-filled car tires at him and set them on fire.

The mob of young men committed more hate crimes of this nature. They marched through the Diepsloot slum in Johannesburg, demanding that residents see their identity cards. Anyone with a South African document was left alone; Those who could not present one and who revealed themselves as foreigners because of their language were insulted, threatened, beaten or, as in the case of Elvis Nyathis, brutally murdered. The members of the mob posed as supporters of “Operation Dudula”, which is currently spreading fear and terror across South Africa.

The group, which was founded in the Johannesburg township of Soweto, is enjoying increasing sympathy across the country. Time and time again, their supporters have taken the law into their own hands, for example by asking shop owners to show their employees’ work permits or evicting small foreign traders from their jobs. South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa already feels reminded of the apartheid era. “This is how the apartheid oppressors acted,” he wrote in a circular.

After brutal attacks, truck drivers from neighboring countries who use the important trade route via the N3 motorway to the port of Durban almost exclusively drive in convoys to protect themselves. The violence is primarily directed against migrants from other countries on the continent. Many of them live in South Africa because they are refugees, but also for economic reasons. Valid residence permits are difficult to obtain.

The militia wants to “liberate” South Africa from foreigners. Since the beginning of this year, they have repeatedly marched in protest through major cities such as Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, accusing foreigners of drug trafficking, forced prostitution and all sorts of other crimes. For them, strangers are responsible for the staggering unemployment rate of almost 40 percent – ​​as well as for the fact that South Africa, with well over a hundred reported rapes a day, is considered the world capital of violence against women.

Schools are teeming with foreign teachers, while 30,000 local teachers are unemployed, says Dudula founder Nhlanhla Mohlauli. And in hospitals you are treated by nurses who do not speak any of the ten local languages. Such allegations are known from other countries: What they also have in common is that they can only be proven in the rarest of cases.

Nhlanhla Mohlauli, who lets himself be called “Lux”, is 35 years old, usually appears in military uniform with an armored protective vest and, according to his own statements, commands several hundred fighters. Weapons are also available, Lux assures. Via WhatsApp, they receive tips from the population as to where “illegal aliens” are: Then they go out to harass people. Since the police are useless, his militia must ensure order, says Lux: “The majority of the problems that we South Africans are confronted with have been brought upon us by foreigners.” Corona, recession, inflation, global warming and housing shortages.

Hatred of foreigners is not new to the Cape of Good Hope. In the riots 14 years ago, 62 non-South Africans were killed and hundreds of shops went up in flames. More excesses followed in 2015, 2016 and 2019: bit by bit they ruined the country’s reputation. South Africa has long ceased to be perceived as Nelson Mandela’s likeable rainbow nation, who was the first black president to propagate the concept of a community-minded nation.

A few years after Mandela’s death, his party, the ruling African National Congress (ANC), is struggling to counter the populist wave. Many in its ranks are themselves convinced that the four million registered immigrants and the unknown number of illegal immigrants are responsible for the countless undesirable developments in the Cape. ANC spokesman Pula Mabe recently described Mohlauli’s “Operation Dudula” as a “progressive and constructive citizens’ association”. (with dpa)