Instances of violence that have flared up between locals and foreign nationals in South Africa cannot be remedied by merely repatriating the foreign nationals to their countries of origin says the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee (Nicoc).
“I think we are going to move very carefully in dealing with this matter as government because it’s not going to be a solution to just repatriate. Many foreign nationals are integrated in our communities, are married to South Africans, they have families,” said Nicoc acting coordinator of Intelligence Clinton Swemmer while briefing Parliament’s ad hoc committtee probing violence against foreign nationals.
“They are law abiding members of our communities so we need to have a good and well thought through approach to how we deal with this and the department of home affairs review of our migration policy is going to give us the key in terms of how we deal with this…”
Nicoc, as part of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Migration, rejected the notion that South Africans were xenophobic, rather blaming “root causes” and “triggers” for the incidents of violence against foreign nationals.
One of the root causes was the fact that foreigners were engaged in the illict economy.
“Our concern in this particular case is that there is a business model that is being used where the businesses are not registered, the people involved are not banked, there are no taxes being paid. In other words there’s a whole parallel economy being conducted here that is in effect an illicit economy and this is our concern,” said Swemmer.
“The departments of small business development and COGTA [cooperative governance and traditional affairs) are working very closely so that we can start encouraging these businesses to regularise and legalise their status because if we do that we are going to get a better understanding of how this economic activity is conducted and we are then going to be able to ameliorate the negative impact on South Africans who are competing in this space.”
Swemmer said while he could not put a figure to the number of foreign nationals who were in the country either legally, or illegally, statistics from home affairs indicated that 90 percent of them were in fact economic migrants.
“These are not people who are politically persecuted, who are coming to countries in a state of war, have their human rights compromised or infringed in some way,” he said.
“This reinforces the point we are making…that the challenges here are socio-economic in nature and we need to work out how as a country we approach economic migrants because no country in the world simply throws opens its borders to literally millions of economic migrants to enter its territory.”