Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


Ramaphosa urged to act on immigrants

It is up to the state to make sure the migrant issue is dealt with properly, says analyst


Concerned South Africans have called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to stop “tip-toeing” around the issue of migration following the growing uproar which has the potential to develop into yet another explosive situation.

On Sunday there was another protest at Johannesburg Central Police Station where Operation Dudula’s figurehead Nhlanhla “Lux” Dlamini spent the weekend. Dlamini’s Saturday bail application was denied, and he is due in court on Monday.

ALSO READ: Operation Dudula leader, Nhlanhla ‘Lux’ Dlamini, to spend weekend behind bars

At the protest, Kutlwano Botsang said the countless protests across the country should be a wakeup call for the ANC, before the labour statistics which will possibly surpass the previous record high unemployment rates.

“Is he (Ramaphosa) waiting for acts of violence, lawlessness, looting, xenophobia – basically a repeat of what happened in July [2021] – to see that South Africa is crying out for help?” she asked.

Stats SA was expected to release the 2021 fourth quarter labour figures by the end of the week.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said the state’s failure to intervene and deal with the question of immigration in SA has proven the state was clearly not functioning and has become a populist issue which was now dealt with in a different view.

“It is up to the state to ensure the question of illegal migrants is dealt with properly. There is no fact or conditions that one can say exonerate the ANC out of this. It is all the ANC, they never had an immigration policy whether at region or country level,” he said.

“But even as a country we have not done so much when it comes to making sure we deal with the question of immigration, and we have a clear policy.”

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SA’s porous borders are well known. African Defence Review director Darren Olivier said for SA to be better able to patrol and protect its borders it would need a much larger and therefore much more expensive SA National Defence Force, or a large, dedicated border force.

“Right now, there are 15 ‘sub-units’ deployed on a rotating basis on border patrol duties across a land border of over 4,400km,” he said. “Each sub-unit is typically a company consisting of around 150 soldiers, meaning it represents around 2,200 soldiers deployed in total, which is far too few to be able to properly control a border that size.”

Olivier said at the same time, South Africans needed to accept foreign migrants were not going away even if the country substantially reduced new immigration levels.

However, if any solutions are reached, people would have to accept and provide a path to citizenship for those already here.

“Therefore, rhetoric amplifies hatred against foreign residents and gives people the impression history can be reversed is highly irresponsible, dangerous, and based on lies,” he said. “So, while we should have a national debate on how to move forward, it should be without enabling the extremely xenophobic and populist views are gaining so much traction.”

Olivier said there was a need for a national discussion about what was actually possible in terms of border patrol and protection and what it really cost to scale up operations.

“We also need to move away from the type of magical thinking which assumes it is possible to completely stop people coming over our borders, because it is impossible. At best we can slow it down,” he added.

Sharon Ekambaram, manager for Refugee and Migrants Rights Programme at Lawyers for Human Rights, said SA had a white paper on international migration, where forced migration was regulated by the Refugees Act of 1998 – recently amended – while voluntary migration was regulated by the Immigration Act.

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