Our Migration Issues Always become Xenophobic

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South Africa needs to deal with its migration issues. On Thursday a scuffle broke out in Johannesburg CBD between alleged “foreigners” and police. Now social media is abuzz with hate speech and xenophobia.

Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, condemned the violent, riotous behaviour, spearheaded by ‘foreign nationals’, which engulfed the Johannesburg CBD on Thursday.

He made it clear he will not tolerate attacks that foreigners launch on police, he says.


What about our Democracy?

I know that Transformation is a process. But sometimes we just do things in the wrong order and cause chaos.

Like this xenophobia issue that lies so shallow under our skins. Why are we letting this fear of others claim so much space in our heads? And these others are our African brothers and sisters.

When will we realise that democracy is about so much more than just free and fair elections  – it is also about accommodating others and about living free from racism and sexism and homophobia etc

The “Makwerekwere” issue is a painful one for people at grass roots level, because so often they have to compete for trading space with “illegal” foreign nationals.

Counterfeit Goods

By now we all know what happened. Johannesburg’s inner city was plunged into chaos on Thursday morning, when law enforcement agencies attempted to confiscate counterfeit goods from informal traders. A joint operation between the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) quickly spiralled out of control when vendors fought back against the raids.

On social media people mocked the police for running away. However Provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said his officers “tactically withdrew” from the intelligence-driven operation to avoid being forced to use live ammunition.

Thank the Lord they withdrew. Do we really want another Marikana in the streets of Jo’burg?

From the Mouths of Politicians

Gauteng community safety MEC Faith Mazibuko condemned the attack on law enforcement.

“We can’t co-govern with criminals, especially foreign nationals who want to turn our country into a lawless banana republic.”

#Foreigners Trends on Twitter

I realised just how reactive social media was when I saw that “#foreigners” was trending on Twitter. With tweets and responses like this:


Yes, politicians love slogans. Soundbites translate well to the people and fire up emotions hot and fast. Oddly though, not a word from the usually vocal EFF.

We certainly have a problem in South Africa, like most of the world, with undocumented migrants.

Our porous borders, corrupt officials, disorganised amnesty system and short-staffed Home Affairs make South Africa a haven for displaced and poor people from across the continent who are all mostly looking for a better life.

Informal Traders will Fight for Survival

Sadly with our lack of employment opportunities and a growing informal economy, migrants often seem to dominate the trading spaces, owning many of the spaza shops (and also selling fake goods in the street.)

In a perfect world we don’t want fake goods sold anywhere. We would love to have our informal traders more organised and disciplined. And in a perfect world we would like our government to put much more effort into uplifting our informal sector.

So how does it help at all or make any difference to law enforcement to set off on a raid of so called fake goods when you know you are dealing with people who have mostly been through the most desperate circumstances and will fight for their livelihood and survival?

Herman Mashaba jumps on the Bandwaggon

And then all the big voices lash out at “foreigners” or “Foreign Nationals” like opportunistic Johannesburg DA Mayor Herman Mashaba who said the morning after:

 “I am deeply hurt and devastated to wake up this morning to learn that not a single criminal is arrested after the blatant disregard of our country’s laws yesterday in the Inner City.  I would have expected the city to have been closed off and all criminals behind bars by now.”

We Never Fix the Migrant Issues

My frustration is that we don’t fix the problem of migrants and asylum seekers. We set up commissions and make pronouncements and statements and run anti-xenophobia campaigns but nobody ever does anything to make things better for the people of South Africa and for foreign nationals who seek asylum or want to work in our country.

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