Mixed messages on immigrants

2012-12-28 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The ANC was yesterday accused of issuing xenophobic messages with its policy recommendations on immigrants.

At the party’s national conference in Mangaung last week, the committee for peace and stability asked for a revision of the party’s immigration policy.

The committee, among others, recommended a xenophobic awareness campaign, but in the same breath said immigrants who did not have the necessary documents posed an economic and security risk for the country.

ANC MP Mnyamezeli Booi, who serves on the committee, said yesterday it was a constant refrain in the committee that aliens posed a threat. He said another call was for a balance to be found between the oversupply of semi-skilled labourers who streamed into SA and their impact on local job creation.

“Our recommendations must still be ratified by the new national executive committee,” he said.

Loren Landau, a researcher on forced migration at the University of Witwatersrand, said the recommendations resembled political symbolism rather than a policy that would have any impact.

“It is as if the policy is being developed based on second-hand accounts and myths. No empirical research shows that expats are taking local jobs from South Africans. The focus should rather be on the jobs that expats are creating,” Landau said.

Gwede Mantashe, the ANC’s secretary-general, said in his organisational report that there was an urgent need for the party to address the proper management of immigrants arriving in South Africa.

This was in light of:

• The relatively high number of crimes involving immigrants;

• The number of immigrants who have jobs, compared to the high numbers of jobless South Africans; and

• The impact on local small businesses who have to compete with immigrants.

Braam Hanekom, director of the refugee organisation Passop, said is was shocking that one-sided statistics were influencing the ANC’s discussions on the immigrant issue.

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