MEDIA STATEMENT: Foreign Nationals in South Africa

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The people of Africa have been conditioned to a mentality of us versus them. Colonial borders from when the countries of Europe divided Africa up for their exploitation remain in place today. We remind ourselves and our people across Africa of the unity that once existed on the continent. Our shared history shaped by the spirit of ubuntu, known by different names across the region, demonstrates the oneness of Africa, better than any history lesson,

Not only is there a shared understanding of the spirit of ubuntu but there are concrete examples, in more recent history, of the coming together of Africans when we fought a common enemy in the form of the Apartheid government. As expressed by the then Minister of Sport, Fikile Mbalula, freedom fighters from South Africa enjoyed a warm African welcome and support in the fight against Apartheid:

The South African Institute for Responsive and Accountable Governance (SAIRAG) therefore expresses sorrow at the resurgence of anti-African sentiment in South Africa and the irresponsible use of the rhetoric of hate and division by leaders and would-be leaders. The Commission of Enquiry into Allegations of State Capture (the Zondo Commission) made it quite clear that maladministration and corruption have played a large role in the current situation in which South Africa finds itself. Throughout the two and more years that the Commission heard evidence of corruption and state capture, never once did it hear allegations of the foreign nationals who live in and have integrated into our communities being implicated in this project.

Maladministration, corruption and poor governance have clearly been pointed out as the cause of the many woes we face. It is therefore surprising, given the wide media coverage which the Zondo Commission enjoyed, that there are still those who buy into the rhetoric around African foreign nationals being responsible for the woes of poverty, unemployment and related ills. Operation Dudula should not have any support as refugees and migrants, many of whom have integrated into our communities, have been as badly impacted as the people of South Africa, by the economic downturn caused by state capture which cost South Africa billions.

SAIRAG urges the South African government and in particular the Department of Home Affairs to urgently implement systems which will bring order and stability to the region for the benefit of the people of this country and those within its borders. Focusing on dealing with illegal foreign nationals does not address the problem of economic hardship in South Africa or in the sub-Saharan region. An efficient system of border control which allows and documents entry and exit from the country is a progressive measure which will ensure comprehensive records and better control of border operations. Open borders in SADC region to enhance trade have better prospects for kick-starting economies and bringing stability than any of the strategies currently in use. Enhancing inter-region trade is a concrete means of economic empowerment for the people of the region and of South Africa.

An economically stable region which can better sustain the needs of the people will ultimately result in reduced economic migrancy. An approach which addresses the cause of the problem rather than its symptoms is a more efficient and effective means of ensuring that resources can be directed where they are most needed. SAIRAG’s proposed strategy for better, more efficient control of entry to and exit from the country is consistent with principles of good governance, is sustainable and has good prospects for having positive long-term impacts within the region. While Africans remain fighting among one another, the wealth of Africa continues to bleed out of the region enriching already prosperous nations to the north.

Dudula and similar operations, legitimise attacks on migrants but fail to resolve the underlying problems of poverty and inequality. While SAIRAG condemns this misleading narrative in the strongest terms and condemns any attacks on foreign nationals it is mindful of how hunger and fierce competition for scarce resources can influence people to buy into this false narrative. Afrophobia and Xenophobia have no place within the word or spirit of the Constitution, neither however does poverty or hunger. The current economic recession is therefore concerning since it makes us more vulnerable to seeking a quick fix. SAIRAG warns that the idea that ridding the country of the presence of foreign nationals will rid the country of the problems which it faces, is patently false.

Under both domestic and international law, South Africa has bound itself to the ideal of eradicating statelessness. This ideal cannot be attained while the approach to it remains reactive and punitive. More efficient processes for documenting persons entering the country will go a long way to ensuring that appropriate planning for the needs of migrants, within resources, is possible but can also fulfil the purpose of encouraging economic renewal in the region thereby addressing in part the problem of statelessness.

Acknowledging that resources are constrained, the exercise of better control through the mechanisms proposed by SAIRAG is consistent with a commitment to human rights and the achievement of economic stability and prosperity in South Africa and the region. It is also consistent with principles of responsive and accountable governance which the reports of the Zondo Commission demonstrate is what is required quite urgently.

Contacts for Media Enquiries

Lisebo Kotelo

+27 71 876 1947

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