Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba’s “irresponsible maverick Donald Trump” tactics in singling out foreign nationals to gain votes by popularity is at the expense of those most marginalised in society.
Mashaba has been criticised for clamping down on foreigners in the city and accusing some of them of crime.
He has also taken on President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Mashaba yesterday announced that he is working with home affairs and has already conducted seven raids to close in on immigrants without legal documents. A total of 230 immigrants have been repatriated to date.
Mashaba criticised Ramphosa’s stance on open borders and free movement of people across the continent, calling it “reckless”.
Political analyst Daniel Silke said unlike the ANC’s liberal stance on immigrants, populist policies like Mashaba’s “did not take into account the human aspect of what people face”.
“This is unbridled populism. It doesn’t worry about the actual lives of those people involved. It is certainly a political vote-capture for Mashaba – and immigrants are always an easy target.
“They don’t vote and are shunted from pillar to post as we have seen in the past with xenophobic violence. He is playing a populist vote-catching game that can be dangerous. He is a bit like the Donald Trump of SA politics,” Silke said.
“I thought [EFF leader Julius] Malema was the Trump on the left nationalist side, but Mashaba has his own style of being a populist.
This is political grandstanding to make a name for himself.
“Mashaba looks like he is prepared to carve out a particular niche as mayor on his own terms. He knew cracking down on migrants pressed the right buttons amongst the electorate, but not among civil society.”
Loren Landau, SA research chair at the African Centre for Migration and Society, said that globally, municipalities were asserting themselves as independent political actors.
“In New York, San Francisco, London and elsewhere, cities have condemned xenophobia because they know connection is what makes cities great.
“Mashaba has chosen to send a message of South Africans first,” she said. “This may well be in line with popular will, but it also puts him in step with the world’s Trumps and [French politician Marine] Le Pens.”
There is a mix of playing to his constituencies.
“Perhaps this is an effort to expand DA support among black voters in advance of next year’s elections. More likely, it’s meant to satisfy his true constituency: wealthy land developers who are trying to clean up the city for their own profits,” said Landau.
While Johannesburg has many problems, the question is whether immigrants are the cause.
“In this case, the answer is squarely no. Poor services and security are not immigrants’ fault.”
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga questioned the DA’s silence.
“Mashaba knows if he stands on this he will get the votes. But is it a moral way to get the votes?
“This is bigotry. This is not in line with liberal principles of opening the borders and ensuring free trade. The party is very silent. The sad part is people listen to these things.”