Dudula: 2 years later and I hate being a South African

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Boipelo Manyowa

By Boipelo Manyowa
ABOUT two years ago, as goons ravaged suburbs beating other humans to a pulp, I sat down to express myself in a way that I had never before.

I did not want to, but I had to and I promised myself it would be the only time.

I wrote, carefully, for NewsDay, that, in that moment, I was ashamed of being a South African.

The reasons were stark and obvious. In a decade, at least thrice and at a global scale, my fellow countrymen, and without provocation embarked on systematic attacks against other black Africans. It did not make sense, and it made me hang my head in shame.

Barely 24 months later, a cousin of xenophobia surfaced; bigger, better organised, and stronger. I hear they call it dudula. It claims to be anti-crime, but, most of what we see is violence, theft and intimidation of extremely vulnerable members of society.

Everything and anything is possible in South Africa, but even I did not see this coming. I will get back to this later.

I want to cut straight to the chase. I have a disclaimer. I am married to a foreigner. My husband and colleague Maynard is a Zimbabwean who I have known since I was a teen and whom I love. We have been married for many years and have travelled to every single continent together.

I have lived for his dreams, and he admits this, but I don’t concede he is better than me — I gave up my aspirations so we could have a family. This is not a joke. We have children, and our families are joined and known to one another. I spurned the chance to use the double barrel (Marope-Manyowa) because I wanted to carry his name, in its full
extent.

This is rudimentary and I only say this as a disclaimer and to give context. What is perhaps significant is that, in all our years of marriage, my husband has never applied for a spousal visa, and we have lived and enjoyed our lives in many
places.

We currently live in the United Kingdom, since 2019, but our sights are set on Zimbabwe, where we want to set up a college of journalism and media — this is why my husband is a PhD candidate in journalism at a leading university here in England.

Yet this is not why I write this. I pen this, again as an ashamed South African, but also a confused one.

South Africa has several problems, especially at its porous borders. Anyone and their cat can pass through our ports of entry for the right amount (and this is not much usually). This has contributed significantly to our drug epidemic and to some degree, violent crime.

But from what I can see, the people who have been targeted by dudula are poor vendors and gardeners; the very foreigners who are shunning crime and trying to earn an honest living. I am yet to see or hear of dudula targeting organised criminals in high-rise buildings in Sandton, or the criminals that rent out entire streets in Edenvale, Yeoville or
Rosettenville.

All I have seen so far are vulnerable mothers, who survive on less than R10 a day being tormented by a cowardly mob. It doesn’t sit well with
me.

I despise contradiction. We cannot in one breath claim to be champions of the rule of law yet we behave like vigilantes. Anyone who enters our country, whichever method they use, and however illegal it may be, is subject to the same laws as us — that is what equality before the law
means!

Anyone who enters the country illegally should be subjected to the processes dictated by the law. Any person found within our country has equal rights as me and you. There is no room for vigilantes, no matter how tempting that maybe.

I also cannot stand the cowardice, that claims a black woman selling tomatoes in Sunnyside, Pretoria is dangerous, but a drug dealer of European descent in Sandton is tolerable. This black-on-black violence is not good and so long as it exists, South Africa can never be independent.

Lastly, and more importantly, I was driven to write this article to remind the dudula thugs of a few things.

  1. Nationality is not a skill, and several South Africans, like me, are out there trying to conquer the world.
  2. Several people come to our country, but many a time it is to our own benefit. Immigrants build States. Just look at the US, the UK, and Canada. Diversity breeds success.
  3. There are no foreigners in Africa. We are all Africans because Africa lives within us. Our black brothers and sisters are one with us.
  4. And this is the most important. We are not that special. We are, as any other Africans, just visitors on this earth. We will all die.

It pains me to write about these things or imagine that I must. Immigrants bring knowledge, diversity and strength.

I don’t say these things because I married one. No. As I stated above, my family and I live happily in the United Kingdom, after several years of living in Hong Kong.

I have written before, that Zimbabweans have been extremely unkind to me, to a point where any friend of mine would be surprised I would speak in their favour.

So, this is not about me. It is, however, about several people from different walks of life, who can change our country for the better, but who are being targeted by criminals who claim to be fighting crime.

You couldn’t make this up. And once again, I am ashamed to be South African, but, at least for now, I am thrilled that, through my marriage, I have become, and carry a Zimbabwean passport — a true achievement for someone so passionate about Pan Africanism!

  • Boipelo Manyowa is a South African journalist and documentary film maker based in Manchester, England.