The Durban Diakonia Council of Churches (DCC) said it will not comply with Operation Dudula's demand to stop assisting alleged undocumented foreign nationals.
Rev Musa Zondi, chairperson of the DCC, said giving refuge to the needy is their core function as a church so it would be impossible to honour Dudula’s request.
“We’re not going to stop doing what we’ve been doing. What we, and the organisations that are in our premises are doing, is the core of the gospel. We would cease to be church if we listened to Dudula Movement and do what they are asking us to do,” he said.
Last week Thursday, Operation Dudula members in Durban who marched to the church accused it of housing and protecting illegal foreign nationals.
Mazwenjabulo Ndwandwe, KwaZulu-Natal task team member of Operation Dudula, said last Thursday they had done their “research” on the activities at the DCC before the protest.
He accused the church of “harbouring” foreigners and getting funding from the UN that ends up in “people’s pockets”. He provided no evidence for his claims.
In a memorandum of demands handed over to the DCC, Operation Dudula called for the church to join it in calling for the deportation of all foreigners running spaza shops in SA. It also called for the closure of gold exchange companies, claiming people were being robbed of jewellery which was then sold at the exchanges.
Zondi acknowledged that there is some truth to Dudula’s grievances in that there is huge competition for scarce resources in the country hence the high unemployment.
However, he said the anger towards the church was misdirected.
“There is a misunderstanding on our function as a church. It’s a misdirected protest. The police asked if we would receive them and we agreed so they have a right to be here,” he said.
“We want to engage them moving forward and maybe try to educate them on the plight of foreign nationals without taking sides.
“It is the function of the government to check whether foreigners are here properly and legally. It is the responsibility of international organisations like the UN, which we work with, to look after the refugees.”
Zondi also weighed in on home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s remarks about terminating special work permits for Zimbabwean nationals in the country.
“The Zimbabwean situation is a special case because there is no other country with those kind of permits in SA. I think the minister was addressing a particular position because they had been extending those special permits from the time of (former) prime minister (Morgan) Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe, and those people are no longer there,” he said.
“Those permits were made for a particular period of time. Our work here, whether you are Zimbabwean, Congelese, Taiwanese or whatever, if you come to us and you are in distress we have an imperative of the gospel to give you food, shelter and help in any way we can. That’s what I think makes them (Dudula) angry,” Zondi said.