Lindiwe Zulu Should Resign

2015-01-29 23:53

Lindiwe Zulu (CityPress)

The rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is telling. In difficult economic climates, or when governments seem incompetent on immigration, anti-immigrant sentiment rises. And exploiting that is politically expedient. Why? Foreigners are soft targets – small in numbers, largely prohibited from affecting the political system, and vulnerable. People do not up and leave to undertake meagre jobs because they feel like moving – they do so to avoid hardship and suffering.

The same can be said of the large numbers of foreigners in South Africa. As governance issues and state failure become realities for its northern neighbours, South Africa is a last chance for many. Despite the difficulty of getting there, and settling in, many come here seeking a better life.

Regrettably they are subject to the worst kind of violence. Initially isolated, since 2008 xenophobic attacks have become more prevalent. The reasons are not dissimilar to those that explain UKIP’s rise: competition for jobs/resources, a failure to integrate, government ambivalence and incompetence. The different responses are attributable to the acuity with which rising economic concerns are felt.

South Africa’s iconic township, Soweto has recently been engulfed by xenophobic flames. Foreign-owned businesses have been opportunistically looted, unlawfully shut down, and their owners brutally attacked.

It is within this context that worrying comments from Lindiwe Zulu, a Cabinet Minister, should be viewed.

“Foreigners need to understand that they are here as a courtesy and our priority is to the people of this country first and foremost. A platform is needed for business owners to communicate and share ideas. They cannot barricade themselves in and not share their practices with local business owners.”

They reflect her warped idea of immigration and display magnificently callous ignorance. Legal status aside, South Africa’s Constitution compels the government to afford foreigners many of the rights that citizens enjoy. Especially those regarding safety and security. Its wording is not mistaken. The legal commitment reflects the moral duty its drafters feel towards nations who helped it during Apartheid.

Zulu’s views, like UKIP’s, do not only fan the flames. They legitimate them. Above justification, she blames foreigners themselves. And, appallingly, exonerates the government of any responsibility.

She will not be fired. Nor will she resign. As such, I would encourage her to visit the affected areas. And, as Helen Suzman once said, she should do so heavily disguised as a human being.

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