Mondli Makhanya: You PC tyrants, please sit down

Mondli Makhanya is editor in chief of City Press.
Mondli Makhanya is editor in chief of City Press.

This lowly newspaperman generally has no problem with political correctness.

He has on many occasions even tried to join the cult, but dismally failed the exams.

However, he has a problem when political correctness becomes a tyranny and threatens logical discourse about the challenges society faces.

The latest manifestation of this is the discussion about uncontrolled immigration into South Africa and the failure by government to document foreign nationals living in the country.

Prompted by outrage over the violent attacks by foreign nationals on policemen who were enforcing the law, the debate has sharply divided opinion.

It pushed the issue of uncontrolled immigration right up to the top of the agenda, alongside Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s deteriorating cognition condition.

Anyone who dares characterise uncontrolled migration as a problem is deemed to be in the same camp as that hulky orange beast who lives on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Accusations of fuelling xenophobia and not appreciating the value that immigrants bring to a country fly.

For the record, immigrants – human beings – are NOT a problem. Uncontrolled immigration and not documenting residents IS a problem.

For a society to plan infrastructure and the provision of services, it needs a certain amount of knowledge about population movements.

It also needs to be able to identify those who are within its borders so that they can access services and records can be kept.

Making sure that those within borders are documented – whether they were born there or not – is also key to ensuring everyone’s safety.

This is the point that Herman Mashaba, the mayor of this city that is God’s masterpiece, has been trying to make since he took office in 2016.

His repeated calls for foreign nationals to be documented was conveniently distorted to mean that they must leave Johannesburg.

The foot soldiers of political correctness jumped up and down and accused him of hating foreigners.

He stood his ground and governing party politicians from other tiers are now coming around to his way of thinking.

Even a genuine intention to solve a problem is an invitation to condemnation from the PC brigade.

Remember when former health minister Aaron Motsoaledi correctly highlighted the burden that public health facilities face as a result of having to cater for more than they are able to? He was lynched.

In his comments, Motsoaledi pointed out that, unlike in most other countries, migrants – including refugees – could move freely and access services like any other citizen. This was having an effect.

“The weight that foreign nationals are bringing to the country has got nothing to do with xenophobia… it’s a reality. Our hospitals are full. When a woman is pregnant and about to have a baby, you can’t turn her away from a hospital and say she is a foreign national … you can’t,” he said.

“And when they deliver a premature baby, you have to keep them in hospital. When more come, you can’t say the hospital is full, go away … they have to be admitted; we have no option. And when they get admitted in large numbers, they cause overcrowding and infection control starts failing.”

So there you have it. A straight-forward, nonjudgemental factual statement committing to treating all who wish to enter public facilities equally.

But Motsoaledi attracted fire and brimstone, and was even accused of using foreign nationals as scapegoats to mask his department’s failure to run the public health system across the country.

There is a tendency to want to shut down any discussion about the uncontrolled migration of possibly millions of people in the republic. It is as if this would be a precursor to purges and pogroms.

This is tantamount to sticking our collective heads in the sand and wishing that the problem would solve itself. It won’t. We need to have robust and honest conversations about this matter if we are to come up with workable solutions.

The reality is that, even with its anaemic growth rate and its myriad crises, South Africa will always be an Eldorado for our continental brethren and for many in underdeveloped countries beyond the seas.

For the foreseeable future, Abidemi, Manu and Ndiaye will make their way from the west of the continent, while Liban, Diara and Yurik make their way from the east.

Trythanks, Nomatter and Eversmile will keep hopping over the Limpopo River from Masvingo.

South Africa may be able to reduce the flow to a trickle, but it will not stop altogether as long as there is uneven development on the continent, and as long as freedom and democracy are practised only in breach.

As for foreign nationals living in South Africa, we have to accept that this is their home.

Very few have any intention of returning to their countries of origin. (To be fair, who would want to leave a country that is home to the ever-conquering Orlando Pirates?)

The days of mass deportation are over – it is a pointless exercise. The starting point is to recognise the problem and talk about it openly.

So, could the perpetrators of PC tyranny please let others talk?

Mondli Makhanya
Editor in Chief
City Press
p:+27 11 713 9001  e:
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