South Africa

XENOPHOBIA

#OperationDudula — the many faces of Nhlanhla Lux Dlamini

Nhlanhla Lux Dlamini of Operation Dudula during the Soweto revival launch in Diepkloof on 27 February 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Daily Maverick / Felix Dlangamandla)

While fears of an escalation of social tensions and violence grow in many communities, the Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change looked at some of the factors that drive the online conversation around #OperationDudula.

He has posted pictures of himself as an aviator, discussed golf on social media, and has been involved in youth empowerment issues.

He has strong views about gangsterism in prisons and the development of township economies.  Now he has emerged as the leader of a campaign against foreign nationals living in South Africa.

These are the many faces of Nhlanhla Lux Dlamini, known as Nhlanhla Lux, the leader of #OperationDudula. 

Since its first online appearance in June 2021, #OperationDudula has become one of the most popular hashtags calling for the removal of illegal foreign nationals in South Africa, alongside #PutSouthAfricaFirst.

#OperationDudula has expanded beyond an online conversation and now operates as a vigilante group that targets foreign nationals and their businesses.

As fears of an escalation of social tensions and violence grow in many communities, the Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC) looked at some of the factors that drive the online conversation around #OperationDudula.

The first of these factors is the account of the group’s leader: @nhlanhla_lux_ .

A timeline analysis reveals that since its creation in June 2014, the account shared a number of low traction posts, predominantly with Instagram links that were either broken or unfollowed.

This trend continued until 2018, when the posts began to gain some traction. Many of these posts were about golf and aviation, specifically Native Airways, which Lux claimed to own.

 

At this time, the account also engaged in conversation around social issues such as gangsterism in prisons and the development of township economies.

In July 2021 Lux was involved in protecting Maponya Mall from looters during the unrest.

The account’s focus on developing township economies and driving the “Soweto spaza business accountability program”, which ensured that spaza shops supported local entrepreneurs, continued in August 2021.

The theme of “patriotic citizenship” was then introduced in the account’s posts.

In October, the account engaged in conversation related to the local government elections.

By November,  the account ramped up its stance on “patriotism” by engaging in the #PutSouthAfricaFirst conversation, which calls for the prioritisation of South Africans over foreign nationals in the economic sector.  This theme soon became prominent in posts.

Lux has continued to dominate headlines and trend lists this year due to his leadership of #OperationDudula, which has been responsible for attacks on foreign nationals in various parts of the country.

Last month, the CABC reported that the first mentions of #OperationDudula were recorded around June 2021, when posters of #OperationDudula’s plan to remove foreign nationals from Soweto began circulating, with the first spike recorded around Youth Day.

An advanced Twitter search reveals that the @nhlanhla_lux_ account made no mentions of the hashtag between June 2014 (when the account was created) and December 2021. 

The graph below indicates the account first used the #OperationDudula around 30 January this year.

Mentions of #OperationDudula by the Nhlanhla Lux account over time

This was despite reports of Lux’s association with #OperationDudula being reported as early as June 2021.

If Lux began mentioning #OperationDudula in January 2022, about six months after its emergence, who was driving the conversation between June 2021, when the hashtag first emerged, and December 2021?

Top authors using #OperationDudula between May 2021 and December 2021.

The online conversation around #OperationDudula has received more than 450,000 mentions since the hashtag emerged in June 2021 until 7 April 2022.

The CABC also found that while Lux leads the physical mobilisation of #OperationDudula and receives high traction on posts around the operation, he is not included in the top 10 authors within the conversation. 

Among the top authors is the @Lolobee93658919 account, which accounts for 3,624 mentions between 1 June 2021 and 6 April 2022.

Top authors using #OperationDudula between June 2021 and April 2022.

With more than 30,000 tweets since its creation in February this year, the @Lolobee93658919 account has been posting content predominantly linked to #PutSouthafricaFirst and #OperationDudula. 

An analysis of the account’s last 2,195 tweets shows that 84% of @Lolobee93658919 content are retweets, not original content.

This account has also been flagged for its high tweet frequency, which averages 491 a day since the account’s creation and 549 a day for the last 2,195 tweets.

The second account which, by April 6, had garnered 3,189 mentions of  #OperationDudula is the @masotobe39 account: 97% of the content of the last 2,197 posts are retweets.    

This account, created in March 2017, also has a high tweet volume, averaging 439 a day for the last 2,197 tweets.

The CABC detected a number of instances where @masotobe39 engaged with the @Lolobee93658919 account, which has the highest number of mentions within the #OperationDudula conversation.

The @kraalbulawayo account was found to have the third-highest number of mentions of #OperationDudula.

Since joining Twitter in October 2021 and with more than 16,000 mentions so far, this account also shares more retweets on foreign nationals than original content.

Lux, whose online traction has improved over the years, is not among the highest authors in the conversation. The CABC found that the account’s content is not among the top 10 in terms of reach.

Top authors with the #OperationDudula conversation (by reach) between June 2021 and April 2022.

However, Lux’s presence in physical mobilisations, his arrest for alleged housebreaking and his subsequent release have kept his name at the top of the trending lists: mentions of the @nhlanhla_lux_ had more than 130,000 mentions this year. 

Online authors like @Lolobee93658919 — which in a space of two months has already sent out more than 30,000 tweets and retweets — keep the conversation going. 

The activities of #OperationDudula and its leader have left many questions unanswered.

At the top of the list is this: will the man of many faces, Lux, and the militant operation he leads be curtailed by law enforcement agencies, or will they create further social discord, violence, and deaths? DM

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  • Nhlanhla Lux Dlamini is potentially more hazardous to our future than Julius. He could also be more positive. Where does the money come from?

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