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SA Crime Stats: Foreigners getting disproportionate blame

12 October 2015, 11:35

A senior government official has again done the generalised blaming of foreigners for crime. This kind of talk is plain xenophobic. The minister of police Nathi Nhleko made statements that amounts to little more than expressions of prejudice.

On a sensitive topic, I would have expected him to back his conclusion with specific data and facts. However his conclusions have amounted to little more than personal feelings of either himself or the report writer.

The conclusion that 'undocumented' foreigners are responsible for 'spikes' in crime is wrong on two points. Firstly documented individuals can be criminals. In fact high-value organised criminals are able to corruptly buy documents. On top of that they often work hand-in-glove with corrupt government officials.

To back my point, the former wife of an intelligence minister is in jail as we speak over a corrupt relationship with criminals. That foreigner was documented wasn't he? Czeck fugitive Rodovan Krejcir even had a gun in his cell, something he could not have acquired without corrupt connivence.  Several senior officials in the police have been said to be in his pay. He is so brazen that he has apparently been organising assassinations from his cell. In short, the worst kind of foreign criminals are documented and work closely with government officials.

The language that minister Nhleko used diverts attention from this group and instead focuses it on undocumented people whose crimes are by scale petty compared to those of the rich-criminal, government-official alliance. Even the highest echelons of power in this country has been linked to a very rich foreign family.

It is therefore my view that Nhlekos statement that the “influx of undocumented foreign nationals remains a serious issue, noting a spike in certain crimes in the areas where there is a large number of these individuals" is not a sincere and honest assessment. The corrupt relationship between rich criminals and government officials is a far much more serious challenge. Need I emphasise that a former police commissioner died on parole. Or that a friend of very top person have been convicted of corruption and is on medical parole.

The vast majority of undocumented individuals are doing their best to work for a living. Not quoting a percentage creates the impression that the whole group are criminals. The worst part is that it stokes xenophobic sentiment in townships where it may break out as murderous rampages.

Unless the South African government makes honest non-xenophobic assessment of crime, serious crime is not going to be tackled. However relations with neighbours are going to continue to be damaged. Countries to the north are beginning to direct their buying power elsewhere. Right now South African transport companies are facing a pinch because raw copper from the DRC and Zambia is increasingly being shipped via Dar es Salaam and Beira rather than Durban which was the norm. Countries are also increasingly buying manufactured goods from China and India and shipping them via Beira, Walvis Bay and Dar es Salaam.

Physically all these ports have always had an advantage over Durban because they are closer to the copper belt. However Durban has benefited from the enormous goodwill people have towards South Africa. Xenophobia, and very unhelpful statements by government officials are steadily eating away at this goodwill.

The South African government should be happy to see economic migrants make SA a top destination. If that stops happening it will mean that South Africa's economy is in serious trouble. By that stage South Africans will have to become the economic migrants. Of course a lot already are. A lot of the mines up north employ South Africans, though mostly skilled.

Rather knee jerk populist statements South African government officials should take time to think carefully before blaming ills on foreigners. Careless statements eventually cost lives. We have evidence of that from the very recent past.
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