In a long column in City Press on Sunday, Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba opined that he would not “remain silent” on confronting “uncomfortable topics”, particularly questions about government’s failure to safeguard South Africa’s borders and prevent illegal migration.
He said he had seen five home affairs ministers come and go in a space of just three years, and not one of them had been able to come up with a satisfactory plan on immigration, let alone to implement one, in his view. He also alleged that high levels of corruption at home affairs were undermining any efforts to contain the influx of undocumented migrants into, particularly, Johannesburg, where people were coming in search of a “better life in South Africa”.
Mashaba denied accusations that he could be described as xenophobic, arguing that he was basing his call for all people in South Africa to be properly documented on the constitution and the rule of law.
He said it was very difficult to plan and budget for the provision of services and accommodation to all the residents of the city when no one seemed to know “who is even in our city”. He pointed out that the public health system was under particular strain due to a near trebling of undocumented migrants seeking treatment since 2016.
“Any suggestion that my call for the restoration of the rule of law is tantamount to inciting violence, is absurd and cheap politicking,” he wrote.
He also criticised the looting of mainly foreign-owned shops and rioting this week as the work of a group of opportunist criminals and criticised government leaders for their alleged hypocrisy in reacting to it.
Numerous African leaders had also expressed their own disapproval of the events in South Africa, but Mashaba claimed they too may have a lot to answer for.
“Perhaps the time has come for the South African government to be bold enough to engage with the leaders of each of the nations whose people are here, and ask them what they are doing to improve conditions in their countries so that their citizens no longer see it necessary to enter other countries illegally,” Mashaba wrote.
(Compiled by Charles Cilliers)