Illegal immigration undermines law and order in SA
A nasty trend has taken root in our country in which anyone who dares to speak out against certain issues is publicly humiliated and dismissed.
For merely lamenting the state of illegal immigration I was labelled "xenophobic", "afriphobic" and "illiberal". Inevitably, the merits of the argument then go undebated.
But eventually, my message was understood. We want the people of the world to come to Johannesburg to work, live and enjoy our city on condition they enter our country legally and, once here, obey our laws.
Then, something strange began to happen. I was being stopped in the streets by ordinary people who were grateful that someone had said something.
Speaking frankly, the state of illegal immigration in South Africa is a disaster.
We do not have borders in our country. People cross into the country through a border that is not properly policed. Don't take my word for it, the South African Defence Force have said as much.
To be clear, many of the people who come to our country without documentation are good people. They can contribute to our society but are often deprived this opportunity by a home affairs department that is wholly inadequate in processing their documentation.
There is no civilised country in the world where this is the case, because for a country to succeed there must be a rule of law. Just like the government required my children to have a South African ID book when they turned 16, it is supposed to regulate immigration and documentation for those entering our country.
There is currently an unknown number of people in our country without documentation. They have taken up residence, largely in our cities. Yet there is no process where I can know their true numbers or receive any funding from the national government for the services I am expected to render to them.
And who suffers most? The poor, forgotten people of our cities. They form the majority of the nine million unemployed. Limited work opportunities are taken up by unscrupulous employers taking on undocumented foreigners.
We have already seen how it impacts our over-burdened public healthcare system. Our police are rendered ineffective when they arrest criminals who cannot be processed only to be released by a failing criminal justice system. Given that foreigners cannot qualify for state-funded housing, many of them are subjected to the worst form of abuse from slum lords in our inner city, contributing to our urban decay.
The reality is that not all people coming into our country are victims. Some come with the intention to break our laws, knowing the shortcoming of our justice system.
You would think, given the context of our country's massive social backlogs, it would be important we discuss this issue.
Why are you branded xenophobic when you attempt to do so? If you think there are not massive criminal syndicates at play, profiteering from vulnerable, undocumented foreigners, you are blind.
And yet, our commentariat plays into the hands of these profiteers. Their need for political correctness drives them to slam anyone who ventures into the terrain of illegal immigration.
It is time that we recognise there is space for a responsible discussion on the subject of illegal immigration. Our citizens want it; our police want it; our doctors and nurses want it.
In a democracy, debating such matters is critical.
Mashaba is Joburg mayor.