Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA Shadow Minister in the Presidency, Sejamothopo Motau MP, during the debate on Xenophobia.
There is no doubt in my mind that all the good people of South Africa cherish the promotion of harmonious co-existence and respect for the rights of all persons, including foreign nationals.
This is the case because we want to establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights for all who live in the country.
A country that is peaceful and crime-free.
Sadly, we seem to be failing in our noble national mission. As matters stand, this country seems more divided and violent than at any time since 1994.
Xenophobia, homophobia, racism and religious intolerance, bedevil the social fabric of our nation.
This, despite the fact that that the Presidency is mandated to lead the agenda and discourse on nation building, social cohesion and national identity facilitated through the Moral Regeneration Movement and its charter of positive values.
What positive results can we show for the millions of Rand appropriated for this purpose every year?
The simple answer is: Very little, if anything. Political correctness and expediency seem to be the major culprits responsible for this dismal performance.
Following the recent xenophobic violence in the Tshwane area, DA Leader Mmusi Maimane made the following plea: “The DA strongly condemns xenophobia and xenophobic violence and we urge all South Africans to do the same. The hatred and intolerance towards foreign African nationals that has flared up in areas of Gauteng is morally contemptible and self- defeating.”
To defeat this scourge, we need to get to the root causes of the problem and eradicate them. Political correctness will not get us anywhere, as experience has shown.
While irrationality can be blamed for some xenophobic behaviour, we cannot lose sight of the fact that there are some objective factors that generate resentment among both South Africans and immigrants that serve as triggers for violence.
For instance, there are growing grumblings amongst South Africans in the townships that foreign nationals put severe strain on amenities and services such as public schools, clinics, hospitals and housing. Scrambling for jobs also always comes up as a big factor.
With 9 million jobless and 17 million people on social grants this is hardly surprising.
The very weak economic growth in the country is not helping. The economy needs to grow by at least 5 percent or more a year, as envisaged by the National Development Plan, to create millions of jobs.
Most people who have a job, hardly ever worry about who is in the country.
Let me defer to the DA Leader again: “The DA’s position is that anyone who meets the legal criteria; is prepared to play by the rules of our Constitution, and who seeks a better life for themselves, should be welcome in South Africa.”
These factors – real or imagined – must be confronted head-on and addressed as they will not go away of themselves. We dare not shy away from them.
Following the xenophobic violence in 2008 and 2015, Parliament appointed Ad Hoc Joint Committees to probe the causes of the violence against foreign nationals.
These committees, constituted at some significant cost, completed their assignments and made recommendations to Parliament regarding the actions to be taken to address the scourge.
These recommendations included that:
- The Department of Home Affairs prioritise issuing foreign nationals with correct documentation, maintain adequate records and root out corruption;
- That the Portfolio Committees on Safety and Security establish the ability of crime combating units to stem future attacks and for police response to violent situations in general; and
- That the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development monitor Special Courts progress in processing cases of violence against foreign nationals.
Very little seems to have been done regarding the implementation of these recommendations. As a member of this House who served on the 2015 Ad Hoc Joint Committee, I have no idea as to what has come of the recommendations.
The DA calls on this Parliament to institute an urgent review of the recommendations made in 2008 and 2015; establish which have been implemented and facilitate the implementation of those outstanding – as a matter of urgency.
The DA believes that recent incidents of xenophobic violence and anti-foreigner sentiments are a consequence of the failure of the ANC Government to implement the recommendations set out in the 2008 and 2015 reports – adopted by Parliament – of the Ad Hoc Joint Committees on Probing Violence against Foreign Nationals.
There is no more time to lose. Failure to implement frustrates any effort to promote social cohesion and harmonious co-existence among the people who live in the country.