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Immigration mess not foreign to SA

Often news breaks of the arrest of home affairs officials and foreign nationals running one scam or another meant to bypass immigration laws.
Often news breaks of the arrest of home affairs officials and foreign nationals running one scam or another meant to bypass immigration laws.
Image: Alaister Russell

When a police team pounced on a gang of robbers at The Hill, southern Johannesburg, a worrying dimension was added to the story. Police released the nationality of the men arrested in the raid, and it emerged that most of the thugs were foreign nationals.

Mention arrests  these days and  the subtext is what nationality are they? It speaks to a crisis those empowered to do something about seem to ignore  – the mess that is immigration in this country.

Often news breaks of the arrest of home affairs officials and foreign nationals running one scam or another meant to bypass immigration laws.

In an interview on Radio 2000 on Tuesday, home affairs minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi spoke of the arrests of home affairs officials along with Pakistani and Somali nationals in connection with a scheme in which locals were hoodwinked and passports were issued in the name of foreigners. In the end locals lost their citizenship when they were  removed from the national registry for a quick buck. 

Many will recall how Motsoaledi came under fire recently and was labelled xenophobic simply for doing his job. Marches were even held to call for his sacking.

Sadly, the minister appears to be the odd one out, left to handle a problem that is nothing short of a crisis.

Where is the leadership and a sense of urgency that speaks of a government all too eager not to let a crisis go to waste? South Africans lost the privilege of visa-free travel to some European countries with historical ties to SA because of this lackadaisical attitude by the government. It has resulted in unscrupulous groups with little more than disguised xenophobia taking centre stage. They, unfortunately, have support because their messages resonate with ordinary folk, those eventually disadvantaged by the chaos.

When the EFF appropriated the responsibility of the department of employment & labour and conducted vigilante-style raids on eateries at malls to demand employment ratios between locals and foreigners, a certain Thulas Nxesi, the minister of labour and employment, warned that this was his job. Nothing has been heard from him since.

The same accusation can be laid at the doors of other ministries and departments, such as the police. 

Government efforts seem sporadic and uncoordinated, leading to the endeavours of those doing their jobs going to waste. And it is into this vacuum that the unscrupulous from both sides gladly step in.

In the said interview, Motsoaledi said the Border Management Authority, housed in his department, was envisaged to morph into a full-blown structure primarily mandated to secure our borders. It will report to a board of several ministers, including defence, police and the Treasury.

It sounds like something that should work but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

 

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