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South African Protesters Call for Deportation of Illegal Immigrants

File- South Africans wave anti-immigration placards during a protest in Pretoria, South Africa, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017.

PRETORIA — Several community pressure groups and smaller political parties Thursday marched to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa's offices at the Union Buildings in the nation's administrative capital, Pretoria, demanding that all illegal immigrants leave the country.

The multitude of protesters arrived at Ramaphosa's Union Buildings offices singing, dancing and chanting anti-foreigner slogans.

Freeman Bhengu, the organizer of the march and member of Sisonke People’s Forum, accused the government of failing to implement immigration laws.

"Our country has plenty (of) problems (including) education (and) health system. Even policing we have got problems. Add on top of that the issue of illegal immigrants. It's not sustainable. Something has to be done," Bhengu told VOA.

Some foreign nationals have described the protest as an act of xenophobia and fear it could lead to attacks on immigrants.

Zandile Dabula, the National Secretary of Operation Dudula, an organization known for expressing anti-foreigner sentiments, rejected allegations that they are xenophobic.

"We need a mass deportation. That’s the most thing that we want as South Africans. We want South Africans to be prioritized especially in our health care facilities (and) schools. Dabula said.

Some protesters accused foreign nationals of being behind violent crime in the country.

Although foreigners have been linked to some crime, there are no reports showing crime is disproportionate to foreigners. In addition, the government has not shown data that foreign nationals contribute significantly to unemployment.

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa has yet to respond to the protesters who pledged to continue their demonstrations until he acceded to their demands.