Mayor of Tshwane, the DAs Solly Msimanga, has written a letter to Malusi Gigaba asking him to “address” the “challenge” of undocumented migrants.
The letter is addressed to Gigaba but President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister of International Relations Lindiwe Sisulu, and Gauteng premier David Makhura are copied in on it.
The letter is careful to avoid xenophobic language. Both Msimanga and Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba, also of the DA, have been at the centre of accusations of xenophobia in the past.
Msimanga was accused of xenophobia when he said in May last year: “I don’t want to sound xenophobic, but in all the raids we have done, Nigerians topped the list of the people involved in drugs.”
Mashaba was accused of the same after accusing undocumented migrants of being the masterminds behind inner-city crime in 2016.
However, the message of the letter is clear: The department of home affairs must “deal” with “undocumented foreign nationals”.
In the letter, Msimanga says his concern over immigration stems from the recent fires in Plastic View, Pretoria that led to the destruction of fifty shacks.
“The recent fires that engulfed parts of Plastic View informal settlement have once again brought to the fore the unresolved issues of illegal immigration and national government’s inaction in this regard,” he wrote.
“What is abundantly clear from this tragic incident is that the Home Affairs department is failing dismally to address this longstanding challenge that has seen xenophobic attacks, loss of life, exploitation, and fighting for limited resources such as employment and housing.
“I am sure you can appreciate, minister, that the Immigration Act, 2002 states categorically that the home affairs department has a responsibility to amongst others; facilitate and simplify the issuance of permanent and temporary residences to those who are entitled to them and to detect and deal lawfully and decisively with undocumented foreign nationals.
“The continued violation of immigration laws is an affront to the rule of law of this country, a precedence that the home affairs department is allowing to perpetuate.
The letter sees Msimanga attempt to show empathy with the plight of foreign nationals while simultaneously making it clear that South Africans should come first.
“While we sympathize with the undocumented foreign nationals, we have an obligation to first provide services to South African citizens. This means we must prioritise and allocate available housing opportunities to qualifying South Africans.”
According to the mayor, the link between the fires in Plastic View and the issue of undocumented immigrants is that it emerged that the “majority of Plastic View residents are undocumented immigrants, thus their status falls outside the prescripts as set out by the housing code”.
This, said Msimanga: “has serious knock-on implications for the city of Tshwane and Gauteng province’ programme of action to provide housing opportunities to our people.”
Msimanga concluded the letter by referring to undocumented migrants as a “problem” that is “pronounced given our proximity to the border”.
The letter can be read in its entirety below: