Durban - Diakonia Council of Churches announced on Wednesday that Operation Dudula have planned a march to the Diakonia Centre in Durban on Thursday July 7, 2022, to hand over a petition.
Reverend Musa Zondi, the chairperson of Diakonia Council of Churches, said the Diakonia was unaware of the content of the petition.
“We surmise that, given the widely acknowledged stance of Operation Dudula against illegal foreigners in South Africa, they are targeting the Diakonia Centre because there are tenant organisations that work with fellow Africans from beyond our borders. The work of these organisations is very much in line with the Biblical mandate given to the churches to embrace the stranger in our midst,” he said.
Zondi said the stance of Diakonia Council of Churches and that of the tenant organisations is clear.
“We are about social justice for all, and will continue to provide services to all who require them. We are cognisant of the fact that some foreigners have gained entry into our country illegally, which is an issue for the government to address.
“When a person presents themselves to any of the organisations in the Diakonia Centre they will continue to be treated with dignity and grace, and provided protection from forces that wish to harm or destroy – just as the protection that was provided to those who presented themselves at the centre during the apartheid era, when the then government sought to harm or destroy them,” he said.
Father Thembelani Ngcobo of the Catholic Church said people seek refuge for different reasons.
“The core of our Christian faith is the ability to seek Christ in the suffering of others – the outcasts and the downtrodden. We also abide by the African sense of ubuntu: I am because you are – which is not divisive or selective, but inclusive,” Ngcobo said.
Zondi said the council recognises that the Constitution confers the rights to freedom of speech and the right to assemble, demonstrate, picket and petition.
He said as a social justice organisation, the Diakonia would not want to deny that right to anyone in South Africa.
“Operation Dudula are exercising that right, and have done so lawfully. We look forward to receiving their petition, which we will then peruse and determine an appropriate response that fits in with our mandate as a council and as tenant organisations. They have indicated a willingness to engage in discussion, which we will schedule with them on the day we meet to receive the petition,” said Zondi.
Reverend Ian Booth, interim co-ordinator, Diakonia Council of Churches, hopes that Operation Dudula recognises the same right to freedom of speech, and the freedom of association.
Booth also hopes that the council and Operation Dudula can meet and find common ground in the interests of the country and its people.
Zondi said metro police confirmed that permission has been granted.
Operation Dudula could not be reached for comment.