Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba insists that he still needs to appear before the parliamentary portfolio committee on home affairs to state his case about why he thinks the department was failing on its constitutional obligations.
Mashaba said he had been in talks with Home Affairs over the years without success. He wrote to the committee chair, Advocate Bongani Bongo, asked for a meeting to present a report on the crisis of illegal and undocumented immigrants in Johannesburg
“For almost three years, and five ministers of home affairs later, I have continuously attempted to engage the department and the ministers on the illegal immigration crisis facing Johannesburg. These efforts were made in total good faith and in the best interests of Johannesburg and its residents, sadly, for the most part, these efforts have been ignored outright,” Mashaba said.
“It has therefore become necessary to take up this crisis with parliament, in the hope that the Department of Home Affairs will finally be held unaccountable,” he said.
He questioned whether Johannesburg should continue to budget for the provision of services to its residents when it did not know who resided in the city. The city’s health department is unable to cope due to an inability to plan properly.
“The health department highlighted that between 15% and 39% of patients accessing the city’s clinics were undocumented immigrants in the city.”
Mashaba informed the committee that illegal immigration compounded the serious challenges in the provision of basic services and temporary emergency accommodation (TEA) to residents. It was also expected to proactively budget and plan for accommodation should residents be rendered homeless as a result of evictions or natural disasters.
Recently Johannesburg City accommodated over 600 undocumented immigrants from Tanzania at Wembley Stadium after a fire in the inner city, but home affairs failed to assist by sending representatives to determine the legal status of the Tanzanian nationals or process their papers.
Johannesburg was also faced with the problem of counterfeit goods being sold in the city centre, including goods valued at R18 million confiscated in November 2018. Last week SAPS and metro police members were attacked by foreign shop-owners during a raid for counterfeit items.
Bongo promised on Tuesday that his committee would visit home affairs in Johannesburg and other areas from 26 August and to meet various stakeholders about the situation.
“It is evident that the department is failing in its responsibility to ensure that people entering our country are processed and timeously provided with relevant documentation. Furthermore, allegations of corruption and bribery in the provision of immigration documents is aggravating this crisis,” Mashaba said.
He suggested that Home Affairs must clean up its act and ensures that it identified and processed undocumented immigrants and where necessary process legal documentation expeditiously.
“This will protect those who wish to legitimately enter our country from criminal elements, including slum lords and drug traffickers, who abuse their desperation and are able to evade the law.
“We cannot remain silent in the face of the breakdown of the rule of law in our country, and the rising human crisis. Ultimately, the casualties of the department’s inaction will be our poorest residents, and indeed, law-abiding foreign nationals,” he said.