SARK vra vir nasionale dialoog oor ongedokumenteerde migrante

Hierdie is 'n opiniestuk.
Die skrywer se standpunte weerspieël nie noodwendig dié van Kerkbode nie.

Die afgelope weke het sommige van die konflikte en onduidelikhede wat die teenwoordigheid van (veral) ongedokumenteerde migrante in Suid-Afrika omring, en die populistiese, opportunistiese narratiewe wat met hierdie werklikheid gepaardgaan, blootgelê.

Operasie Dudula teiken winkels en klein besighede wat daarvan verdink word dat hulle meer buitelandse burgers aanstel. Die aksies van die groep het op talle plekke tot geweld en die beskadiging van eiendom gelei.

Julius Malema, die leier van die Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) het winkels en restaurante besoek, oënskynlik om vas te stel wat die getal buitelandse burgers teenoor Suid-Afrikaners in daardie ondernemings is. Meneer Malema het beweer dat hy dit doen as deel van ’n “toesig-oefening” in sy hoedanigheid as ’n parlementslid. In reaksie op sy optrede het verskeie ander politieke leiers die teenwoordigheid van migrante bevraagteken.

Daar is min twyfel dat die probleme rakende migrasie en arbeid kompleks en diep veelvlakkig is. Om dié rede is dit onverantwoordelik om oplossings te soek deur oppervlakkige en opportunistiese vertellings en praktyke. Veral beleidmakers het ’n verantwoordelikheid om in sulke sake groot onderskeidingsvermoë, wysheid, intellektuele insig, geregtigheid en beste praktyk te bring.

Ons geloof en kulturele tradisies kan ons heel moontlik help om vars insigte te ontwikkel wat ons verby die gepolariseerde impasse kan skuif wat blykbaar hierdie bespreking in onbuigsame “óf-óf”-situasies vasvang.

In die geloofsgemeenskap sal ons goed doen om te worstel met die vier werkwoorde wat Pous Franciskus ontwikkel het – “verwelkom, beskerm, bevorder en integreer”. Indien dit in ons konteks in beleide vertaal kan word, kan dit lei tot waardigheid, respek en regverdigheid vir diegene wat ’n beter lewe soek en aan diegene onder wie hulle vestig.

In ’n onlangse verklaring (sien onder) spreek die Suid-Afrikaanse Raad van Kerke (SARK) die kwessie aan en vra vir ’n nasionale dialoog om die netelige saak van migrante op die tafel te sit.

  • Dr Gustav Claassen is die algemene sekretaris van die NG Kerk.

SACC CALLS FOR NATIONAL DIALOGUE ON FOREIGN NATIONALS

The South African Council of Churches (SACC) is calling for a National Dialogue on foreign nationals working in South Africa, who have once again come under the societal microscope. This call comes in the wake of other members of society who are publicly calling for the removal of all foreign nationals from South Africa “with immediate effect”. “The challenge of addressing the South African attitude to Africans from other countries is a perennial one. The problems of relating to foreign nationals have a direct impact on the communities in which we live, worship and where we have our livelihoods; and we urgently need a national multi-stakeholder and solution-seeking Indaba”, said Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, General Secretary of the SACC.

The murmurings about foreign nationals “stealing the jobs” earmarked for local nationals have been growing in mass for years, albeit at varying volumes. In recent months, we’ve seen the transport sector buckling under the weight of the strain of local drivers’ disgruntlement at the employment of foreign nationals over them. It was not long ago that the N3 was blockaded by protesting drivers, creating a ripple effect to the broader economy.

Today, there are voice notes doing the rounds giving deadlines for the removal of mainly Africans from elsewhere in the continent; and in Johannesburg there is the much more organised “Operation Dudula”; and more recently, the EFF put the spotlight on the hospitality industry, making visits to restaurants to establish the nationalities and ratios of their staff compliments.

The government appears to lack the capacity to deal with this matter in a sustainable way – and this has continued to plague communities, resulting in much bitterness, fear, anxiety and conflict.

Given the spread of organised groups taking the initiative to accost foreign nationals, whether legal or illegal, as the distinction is hard to verify in the heat of the moment, the SACC is deeply concerned that it would take one misplaced word or act by one or more persons, to tip these murmurings to violence and, God-forbid – death.

It is for this reason that the SACC proposes a national Indaba to include all sectors that have an interest in this matter, including the representative bodies of foreign nationals; for all to look into various issues concerning foreign nationals in the country.

These should include the whole question of immigration management and the refugee status regime. It should include the consideration of any research made on the activities attributable to foreign nationals – their presumed role in regular crime and especially organised and syndicated crime like in drugs and human trafficking; their contribution to the national economy and the GDP; their contribution to education, including as university professors; the labour and employment situation regarding foreign nationals – this being one of the triggering points in communities in a high unemployment environment.

“We need to look at the difference between poor and middle-class immigrants, legal or not; is it a class thing? Are foreigners objectionable when they are poor and in townships, and not so when they are middle class in suburbs, or are white from, say the Czech Republic?” added Bishop Mpumlwana. He said that it is important to ask what causes the backlog with documentation processes for foreign nationals, and what the role of corruption could be at the borders or in the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) house allocation that inordinately favours illegal foreigners.

Furthermore, considering the large numbers from neighbouring countries like Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, how does the South African economy relate to the regional and continental economy, both historically and in the present context? What might be some of the solutions – at community level, at municipal level, sectorally as in types of businesses such as informal commerce, trucking of goods; government and public policy – immigration management, regulation of business enterprises; categorisation even of faith-based businesses. What might be some of the solutions?

“We have a responsibility to ourselves to foster a culture of dialogue that will result in meaningful solutions, which is why this proposed Indaba is a national priority,” said Bishop Mpumlwana. He acknowledged that our tumultuous past had resulted in much deprivation, and an imbalanced competition for jobs, commodities and housing, but stated that the forced and violent removal of foreign nationals would not make a peaceful South Africa.

“We must appeal to all our communities to desist from what ends up as vigilante action in the absence of effective law enforcement. We saw the effect of people taking the law into their own hands in the fatal vigilante actions of Phoenix; whatever the cause, and however well intentioned, nothing stops popular action against a section of the population from becoming ugly and resulting in serious injury and death,” Mpumlwana added.

The National Indaba on Foreign Nationals will aim to create a fair playing field, and address every area of concern for all affected sectors and communities; and seek solutions, where the rules that apply for one can be applied to all, for the benefit of South Africa and all who live in it.

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