Stop Xenophobia, Follow Examples Of Christianity, Humanity And Pan-Africanism, By South African Minister
Address by the Minister of Home Affairs, Honourable Malusi Gigaba MP, at the Lighthouse Chapel International Church in Pretoria on 26 February 2017
I am happy to join you today in this, the House of the Lord
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)
I wish to express my sincerest gratitude at the opportunity granted to us attend mass this morning, to join with you in praising the Almighty and more so at the privilege to stand in front of you and convey a message of goodwill, hope, peace, unity, brotherhood, sisterhood and reassurance to all of you and those at home.
We do not take this opportunity for granted nor hope to waste it in trivialities.
We know that this has been a week of much pain and anguish, of fear and trepidation to all of us as we witnessed some among us seek to act or act in ways that demean and diminish our humanity as a whole, our commonality as an African people and our oneness as the children of God.
We have been hurt by the fear we saw in the eyes and heard from the voices of many fellow Africans who feared for their lives, wondering if they, their children, their loved ones and property would at the end of the uncertain imminent turmoil be safe.
We have, at the same time, been encouraged and humanity restored by the many voices coming out everywhere, saying “Not Again!”, “Not in our Name!”, “We are One People!, “We are a common Humanity!”
Those who instigated this, who got the whole country and continent on panic mode, clearly felt the cold isolation and lack of support, and we wonder if they are happy and satisfied because so many have been fired with fear!
When we saw hoax images and pictures, hoax voice and video clips, and hoax messages and letters circulating among a hysterical people, purported to be from immigrants, our neighbours and from South Africans themselves preparing for war amongst one another, we wondered if the instigators of all of this, those who incited vigilantism and associated immigrants with crime, drugs and all sorts of depravity, who labelled them animals who had turned Johannesburg into a jungle, who had defied all calls for calm and restraint as leaders, who refused to accept it that words can kill and destroy, who refused to take responsibility for their actions, we wondered if they felt happy now that they knew they had the power to send the entire country and continent into a frenzy of panic.
International news agencies fed communities afar from Africa hungry for any bit of negative news about our people and continent, reporting South Africa on a war footing, reinforcing their message that we, Africans, are a depraved people who will turn on each other for whatever the reason, that we are full of hate and malice against one another, we are mere savages that love war, mayhem and to kill, that we are not ready to join humanity as a whole at the table of civilisation and reason.
This week we have seen tensions arise in Pretoria, relating to foreign nationals in our community and our country.
Genuine concerns about undocumented immigrants, businesses which prefer to employ immigrants to the exclusion of South Africans and immigrants who are involved in crime.
At the face of it, this should seem like a genuine concern for everyone, because we know that unscrupulous businesses neglecting South Africans, calling them lazy, criminal and untrustworthy negate the very fundamentals of South African laws and endanger by their unscrupulous practices all immigrants, as we saw at Isipingo, in Durban, in 2015, when mayhem started because insensitive employers, seeking to exploit vulnerable immigrants, completely disregarded South African laws which have been carefully crafted to avoid consequences such as the ones we saw and thus reduced the country to violence.
In this way, these unscrupulous businesses exploit equally South Africans whom they do not employ and call insulting names and immigrants whom they employ below the minimum standards as prescribed in law because they are vulnerable and desperate.
In acting this way, they demonstrate the brutality of the system of capitalism which does not care for the humanity of its employees, so long as the employers can divide them, pit them in fierce competition with one another and make super profits out of all of them.
Some of these concerns were raised in a march to the Home Affairs head office on Friday, but regrettably, there have been sporadic incidents of violence and disruption in part of Pretoria, including Atteridgeville.
I want to acknowledge that international migration tends to be a complex, difficult and emotive policy issue in many countries.
The issue of ‘Who belongs?’ has too often bedevilled African countries throughout the post-colonial period.
It has been at the heart of political divisions, violence and even civil war; and this is not unique to South Africa as many other countries, both in Africa and abroad, have been subject to xenophobic incidents, some resulting in civil wars and in some instances political leaders and parties fight and even win elections on the xenophobia ticket and this transform this into official government policy.
It was at the heart of the tragic events of 2008 and 2015.
These events were reminders of the destructive potential of xenophobia, if we do not deal with it.
So I think we must remember the wisdom and humanity we displayed as peace-loving and freedom-loving South Africans, when we proclaimed in the Freedom Charter of 1955 that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it.”
It is with this same wisdom and humanity that we drafted and adopted a Constitution which recognizes the dignity and human rights of all persons, not only citizens or documented persons.
This is a high standard we have set for ourselves, but it is the right standard, which we need to continue to strive to live by.
We are a people of Ubuntu.
We are a people who understand that our humanity is bound up in the humanity of others.
We are because others are.
We cannot deny the human dignity of others, but expect our own human dignity to be upheld.
So the main message I want to express to you today, is to ask for your help as active citizens, people of influence and leaders in your communities.
I am actually not asking you to do anything you are not already doing.
The vast majority of South Africans are not xenophobic, and the vast majority of immigrants are law-abiding, religious people who seek only what is best for their children and families, for their fellow brethren, and for their countries both of origin and abode.
The vast majority of our people do not hold ill will towards immigrants, nor do they intimidate them, or loot or burn their property.
The vast majority of South Africans are not xenophobic or Afrophobic, and do not subscribe to a narrow national chauvinism that seeks to say that whilst South Africa is an African country, but South Africa is at the same time for South Africans alone!
And neither do immigrants hold malicious intentions towards South Africans, whom they regard in high esteem because you have graciously opened your country to them and their families, you all, together, worship an awesome God, and they know that they are because you are!
But even a small minority can ruin our common good name.
So I am asking you to remain even more vigilant, to partner government in raising awareness of how to manage international migration constructively.
It is the policy of the South African government to prioritise South Africans for employment and economic opportunities, precisely because we know the consequences of not doing so.
In this we are no different than any other country which prioritises its own citizens, even whilst acknowledging that there is a place for immigrants to contribute as well.
But immigrants must complement our citizens, not be seen as a replacement for them.
Our visas and permits are organized around this philosophy.
Where unscrupulous businesses hire foreigners exclusively, we are acting and taking harsh action against managers who engage in illegal and immoral hiring practices.
Vigilante activities result in mobs punishing the victims of unscrupulous employment practices whilst absolving the unscrupulous, criminal and immoral employers themselves.
Most immigrants in this country have proper documents.
Those who do not risk being arrested, detained and deported to their home countries.
Most immigrants are not involved in crime.
I think here I must emphasize that immigrants add enormous value to our society.
Immigrants are schoolteachers, doctors, nurses, lecturers, engineers and play many other important roles.
They pay taxes, operate businesses and employ South Africans.
Successful countries have always taken advantage of the contributions of willing citizens from other nations.
Where immigrants do things they are not supposed to do, report these violations to Home Affairs, the Police and any other relevant authority.
Do not take the law into your own hands.
Citizens are justified in condemning crime, and raising awareness to the authorities and civil society where issues of crime are not addressed.
My only injunction is let us take action against crime full stop, not immigrant crime.
Crime is not better when committed by a South African but only worse when an immigrant commits it.
Just as we do not talk about black crime, white crime, Zulu crime or Tswana crime, let us not talk about immigrant crime.
Just as a car hijacker who happens to be Zulu does not mean all Zulus do crime, so a drug dealer who happens to be Nigerian does not mean all Nigerians do crime.
Crime is crime.
The only difference when an immigrant is guilty of a crime is that when he is released from prison he is deported to his home country and is designated an undesirable person and placed on a stop list at our ports of entry to be refused entry to the Republic of South Africa.
So call the police and report a drug den or brothel, or whichever other crime.
When the police do not act, call your councillor and complain that the police are not closing a drug den or brothel.
When your councillor does not act call their political party’s office or the office of the MEC for Community Safety.
If the police are corrupt, call the Independent Police Investigation Directorate and report them.
This is a democracy; this is a people’s government.
It is not perfect, but it exists to do the people’s work.
It is the best alternative to anarchy.
It is tempting to go and beat the person you suspect of doing crime when the police do not arrest them, but what happens when it is you who is falsely accused?
It is tempting to go and burn down the suspected drug den who the police have not raided, but what happens when it is your lawful business which is burnt down because a jealous competitor incites a group of people against you?
Democracy can be slow, it can be frustrating, but a nation of laws is far superior to any alternative.
At the same time, I urge all immigrants in South Africa to assist us in fighting crime, corruption in government and unscrupulous business practices.
Do not pay for fake or fraudulent documents and do not turn a blind eye to a crime committed by an immigrant merely because they are your compatriot.
I am happy to report that many immigrants report crime and corruption in government and that is why the Department of Home Affairs has been successful in fighting corruption within its ranks.
Make the effort to know the South African Constitution, laws and way of life; integrate into the communities and do not set yourselves apart.
Share your enterprising spirit and entrepreneurial know-how with fellow South Africans and make them to know you, who you are, where do you come from and what challenges exist in your countries.
After all, we are all African and we share a common humanity.
We share common origins, a common history of struggle for national independence from colonialism and we have a common destiny as a people!
Africa is the future and the future is African!
In conclusion, I want to say to you I feel the frustration of many poor communities.
We have not made enough progress in addressing poverty, unemployment and inequality.
But I want you to know that our region of Southern Africa and our continent of Africa is not a burden, but is the path to our salvation.
Our fellow Africans are important trading partners, and markets for our goods and services, fellow midwives to the gigantic and prosperous future we all seek.
More importantly they are our brothers, the only thing separating us being lines in the sand drawn by Europeans in Berlin two centuries ago.
We dare not drift farther apart but must draw closer together.
We are in the final stages of developing a White Paper for International Migration which will better guide government on managing this important issue.
It will include proposals on how to ensure we remain open to a manageable number of immigrants whilst not disadvantaging South Africans.
In challenging times we rely on faith in God, and the timeless teachings of scripture for wisdom.
We recall the first book of the New Testament, Matthew, which in 7:12 enjoins us to “in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
We recall the Old Testament book of Leviticus, 19:34, where the Lord told Moses:
“When a stranger lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The stranger living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.”
And we recall the words of Jesus himself, who taught in Mark 12:31, that “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
This he said was as important a commandment as to love the one true God.
Imagine what would have happened had Abraham chased God away the day he visited him as a commoner, had he said to him, “Stranger, get away from my land, from my people and my country”, unbeknown that this was God, the creator of the people, the owner of the land and the country itself, who had come to see Abraham because he had heard his cry and wanted to bless him with a son, Isaac!
The history of this world would have turned differently.
We rejoice too in that Abraham taught us never to chase the stranger in your midst away because you do not know what blessings and gifts he bears!
Let us be true to the best examples of Christianity, humanity and Pan-Africanism.
I thank you.