Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba had a meeting with Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba on Tuesday, amidst the furore caused by the executive mayor’s recent utterances about illegal immigrants being “criminals” who must leave his city.
Addressing a joint media briefing with Mashaba, Gigaba explained at length that there was indeed some foreign nationals who committed crime, “but they are not different from South Africans born here and live here who commit crimes in South Africa and also have malicious intentions against society”.
He said profiling criminals on the basis of nationality was wrong.
“A criminal is a criminal regardless of where they are from. It doesn’t matter whether they are black or white, whether they are male or female, whether they are Zulu, Xhosa or Pedi. Laws in the country don’t discriminate or profile criminals. They are all dealt with according to the same laws. Everybody is equal before the law regardless of their status, social standing or otherwise,” said Gigaba.
Gigaba revealed that the majority of foreigners in South Africa were from other African countries, and most of them, apart from moving in and out of the country, made a significant contribution to the ailing South African economy. He said in a single month – December 14, 2015, and January 14, 2016, South Africa received over six million travellers, mainly from within the African continent.
“The overwhelming majority of people who come to South Africa and make a contribution towards our economy are from this continent of Africa which South Africa is in,” said Gigaba.
“Most of the immigrants from Africa come to South Africa, a country in Africa, using documents, legal means and to either do groceries, to purchase bulk goods to go and sell in their countries. They pay toll fees on our roads, they pay taxes when they buy these goods, they support jobs in South Africa, they contribute critical skills, they pay taxes in South Africa and they really help the South African economy to grow.”
Gigaba said the migrants in South Africa were part of the diversity of the rainbow nation.
Regarding undocumented migrants seeking asylum in South Africa, he said they reasonably arrived on South Africa’s shores without documentation from their countries.
“You can’t ask somebody running away from their country because of political and other persecution to remember to fetch their passports while on their way here. There is no time for that. That was the case for all the asylum seekers we have hosted – Rwandans, Angolans, Congolese, Mozambicans, Zimbabweans, and others. They don’t have the opportunity to fetch their passports on their way here,” said Gigaba.
For his part, a defiant Mashaba said he did not regret the furore caused by his remarks on migrants and added that foreigners hoping to stay in his constituency needed to ensure they were documented and law-abiding.
“Our survival as a city is dependent on international people visiting our country. However, I’m asking, if anyone wants to visit South Africa, please ensure that you come into our country legally. I’m also asking – when you are in our country, or in our city, please respect our laws because we cannot plunge this country or city into a lawless society.”
Mashaba said he did not see how anyone expected him to apologise over his recent remarks.
“We like people to respect the rule of law in our country. I don’t see how anyone would expect me to apologise because, I think, all of us as South Africans and the international community – we are expected to respect the rule of law anywhere in the world,” said Mashaba.
– African News Agency