A remarkable and significant development happened at the funeral service of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe at the weekend – the booing and then cheering of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa was among the African leaders who gathered at the National Sports Stadium in Harare to bid farewell to the 95-year-old Mugabe.
It did not come as a surprise that the following day the South African government announced it was dispatching a team of envoys to the several African countries to apologise to the African leaders and communicate a message that the attacks on foreign nationals were a disgrace to the country’s moral fibre.
The situation immediately placed a financial burden on South Africa in that it had to incur the costs of envoys travelling from one country to another to deliver the message that all is well and that the centre is still holding.
One’s mind raced back to 2008 when the xenophobic attacks hit South Africa, sending government into a spin to quell the tensions.
Fast-forward to this year, the situation is back.
Worse, the attacks moved so fast that in one week Johannesburg and Pretoria came to a standstill.
People could not get to work. Businesses suffered. This demonstrates that government did not learn a thing back in 2008.
By now, South Africa should have developed or tightened the immigration laws such that there is a decisive mechanism to deal with the problem of foreign nationals.
The undocumented number of foreign nationals in the country and the illegal methods they use to enter South Africa is depressing.
Unless government develops tight and strict security laws our leaders will continue to explain themselves to their counterparts whenever the country is burning.
Fortunately, the leaders have done enough public relations to quell the tempers among South Africans.
The next bold step to take would be to fast-track policies to deal with the undocumented migrants and how they get to South African.
Most of these people do not come through the borders.
I am reminded of an incident in 2001 while employed as a journalist at this newspaper.
I interviewed Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, then minister of home affairs and director general, Billy Masetlha.
They had gone to the Musina border post in Limpopo to see for themselves the security measures there and, importantly, to deal with the illegal entries.
Then labour minister Membathisi Mdladlana had also gone to inspect farmworkers and their conditions in the northern part of the country when he was confronted with the problem.
Both Buthelezi and Mdladlana, in front of television cameras and newspaper journalists, expressed disgust and promised to activate their Cabinet colleagues to do something stringent about the situation.
Today, 18 years later, the same problem still persists. It does not look like there is an urgent resolution to the impasse.
There are different schools of thought among South Africans.
Some believe the foreign nationals are responsible for the trafficking of drugs which young children then get hooked on.
They also blame them for human trafficking. High schools in the country are overrun by drug dealers.
Last week, Police Minister Bheki Cele released the worrying crime statistics which shows an increase in crime.
Although Cele did not provide any nexus with the current developments, the situation, however, cannot be read in isolation.
South Africans did not wake up one day and found that the foreign nationals were the problem.
That is based on a culmination of daily living experiences and conditions. But again, there is a problem of crime, generally.
Some people take full advantage of the situation and hide behind the foreign nationals to perpetuate their criminal activities.
People take advantage to loot shops, rob others of their hard earned money and commit other crimes in the name of fighting xenophobia.
It is for this reason that the law must deal with these people.
These developments place a heavy burden on the government in so far as providing essential services.
The public hospitals, low-cost houses and social grants are currently under the microscope, as they are seemingly being exploited by foreign nationals.
While acknowledging the role played by other African countries and, of course, the international communities during the dark days of apartheid, the situation is now different.
South Africa has immigration laws, social stability, public order, better housing and healthcare facilities that need to be respected.
No foreign national must disrespect this country by causing disorder which, unfortunately, they cannot cause in their countries of origin given the strict and tight crime fighting measures back home.
. Selby Mokgotho is an advocate and a member of the Polokwane Society of Advocates