Gordhan links Brexit to xenophobia, warns SA

Cape Town – The anti-immigration sentiment behind the Brexit vote should be a lesson for South Africa not to be xenophobic towards African immigrants coming to South Africa, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan warned on Sunday.

The spread of anger in Europe against refugees coming from war-torn countries like Syria, as well as anti-immigration fury being drummed up in the US by Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump, was concerning in a world of high inequality, Gordhan explained on Power FM.

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“The lesson is to ensure we continue to uphold the principles of the Constitution within our own South African morality,” he said.

Referring to xenophobia, he said South Africans must not "abuse our own lack of jobs because that makes us populists and that damages our own country”.

South Africa’s 26.7% unemployment rate creates tension for millions of jobless citizens as entrepreneurial immigrants from Africa are sometimes better equipped to start their own businesses.

As such, xenophobia in South Africa is a major concern, with violent flare-ups over the past decade causing severe injuries and death, destruction of property and financial ruin for immigrants fleeing war-torn or poverty-stricken African countries.

Gordhan said right wing movements in the West that are revving up xenophobic rhetoric are “quite harmful to developing countries”.

Gordhan said the South African government’s policy is to ensure African countries around South Africa are stable, have well running democracies and have economies that are running well.

“They should earn a living there, instead of coming to South Africa at a huge expense to themselves,” he said. "We want to see a stable environment where people don’t have to take risks. 

“When you host other people from other parts of the continent, there is cost on health and education services.”

He said Africa has been very supportive of South Africa so the country has to “have the right balance”.

“We need to do everything possible to create a peaceful, stable and growing economy in as many parts of the continent.”

His concerns comes as Turkey warned that Europe's politicians are failing to combat rising xenophobia and anti-immigrant views, according to Reuters.

Since the Brexit vote, immigrants in the UK are being “ordered to leave Britain in the wake of the ‘divisive and xenophobic’ Brexit campaign,” Baroness Warsi told UK-based Independent on Sunday.

Muddassar Ahmed, chairperson of UK-based political risk firm Unitas Risk said UK’s decision to exit the European Union will increase xenophobia in Europe.

“In Britain, it has been the most xenophobic parties and individuals who have been most strongly campaigning to leave the EU,” he told The Intercept. “If they successfully managed to pull Britain out of the European Union, it would fan the aspirations of far-right parties across the continent — many of which have already been in ascendance in recent years.”

Indian-based First Post said on Monday that Brexit “is a process of increasing conservatism, spilling into xenophobia, which is increasingly a part of the political discourse, not only in Britain, but in many countries of Europe and beyond”.


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