We must make laws that bite

AFRICANS have ubuntu. It is what defines us. Ubuntu is the common thread among all Africans south of the Sahara.

AFRICANS have ubuntu. It is what defines us. Ubuntu is the common thread among all Africans south of the Sahara.

Ubuntu is what makes us treat our fellow men and women with kindness, dignity and respect. It is what makes us behave when we are guests in somebody's home or in a foreign country.

Ubuntu is what tells us that xenophobia is unAfrican and wrong.

South Africans owe a debt of gratitude to the kind people of the world who hosted its exiles in their countries during the struggle for freedom.

We owe it to ourselves and ubuntu to be hospitable to those who inhabit our country as political or economic refugees. But we should never make the mistake of thinking that everyone entering our country has ubuntu or that they are good guests.

Many incidents of crime in South Africa today are perpetrated by foreign nationals.

There is a new trend of crimes in which foreign criminals use this country as a base to lure prospective investors who are then kidnapped and tortured for ransom.

Gauteng residents were terrorised by Mozambican Ananias Mathe and his gang, who committed a catalogue of crimes, including rape and murder.

In Mpumalanga a group of women was rescued from a house where they had been allegedly held against their will as prostitutes by Nigerians.

Four factors conspire against South Africa to make it attractive to foreign criminal enterprises: we are the biggest economy in Africa; we have porous borders; corruption in public service and the criminal justice system makes it easy for foreign criminals to naturalise themselves and evade justice when they offend; and our human rights culture is not commensurate with the violent nature of crimes we experience.

It is high time our laws, as President Jacob Zuma has said many times, begin to bite. In making the laws "bite" we also need to make it an unattractive option for foreign criminals to come and ply their trade here. This is in no way a call for vigilantism or xenophobia.

It is an unattractive option for foreign criminals to enter Zimbabwe to commit crime there.

This is because Zimbabwe has demonstrated that it is not at all hospitable to foreigners who break its laws. The same goes for Botswana, a country considered to be a model of democracy and human rights.

Our laws also need to start "biting" government officials who sell passports and ID books to illegal immigrants. These crimes must not be seen as just fraud or corruption. They must be seen for what they really are: treason.

By awarding citizenship or residency illegally to foreigners whose intentions in this country are unknown - and could very well be terrorism - these government officials are committing high crimes against South Africa and its people and they should be treated as such.

The government needs to appreciate that our leaking borders are a threat to our country's stability and reputation.

The state must also start giving more weight to the rights of law-abiding citizen as opposed to those of members of invading criminal syndicates.