We should reject ‘us-and-them’ approach to foreign nationals – Mahambehlala

A street scene from Pretoria West after a protest against foreigners in the area, 31 January 2019. Picture: Jacques Nelles

A street scene from Pretoria West after a protest against foreigners in the area, 31 January 2019. Picture: Jacques Nelles

‘We should not respond in a way that may undermine South Africa’s standing on the global stage or the efforts of the government’ in Africa, she said.

While condemning violence against the police allegedly perpetrated by foreign nationals, South Africans should react with caution and not undermine South Africa’s standing on the global stage, the chairperson of the portfolio committee on international relations and cooperation, Tandi Mahambehlala, said.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Mahambehlala called on South Africans to exercise caution when reacting to reports about foreign nationals allegedly clashing with the police in Johannesburg.

“The temptation to resort to an ‘us-against-them’ approach when dealing with foreign nationals should be rejected. We should not respond in a way that may undermine South Africa’s standing on the global stage or the efforts of the government on the continent,” she said.

“We have a responsibility to lead regional integration and promote intra- and inter-trade among African countries. However, thuggery and criminal elements that seek to destabilise our country in the fight against crime should be dealt with decisively.”

On Wednesday, the police raided foreign-owned shops in Johannesburg. This comes after an incident when foreign nationals are alleged to have fought back against the police.

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“That conduct against the police cannot be condoned. It does not matter who is the perpetrator. The committee supports a measured, coordinated and well-reasoned response. Such a response must take into consideration South Africa’s national interest and the long-term vision of reviving Africa.”

She said Africa Day was meaningless if a mere two months later South Africans turned against their African brothers.

Mahambehlala said the committee trusted that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation would give guidance, if so required, and facilitate interventions.

The committee supports the work of the portfolio committee on home affairs on the Border Management Authority Bill, and believes it should be expedited to address challenges with immigration.

On Tuesday, the chairperson of the portfolio committee on home affairs, Bongani Bongo, called for the full implementation of South Africa’s immigration laws and regulations to ensure that everyone within South Africa’s borders is documented. He said it was “untenable” that South Africa could have large numbers of undocumented immigrants.

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