CityPress - - Voices And Careers -

We must recog­nise that the hu­man species was cre­ated to travel – and travel the length and breadth of this uni­verse hu­mans do. They have used land, the oceans and the skies above to travel far and wide; to dis­cover new climes and, most un­for­tu­nately, in all too many in­stances, to con­quer other be­ings across the world.

We live on land that is but a frac­tion in size of the oceans that en­gulf it. To­pog­ra­phy and other fac­tors slow down travel. So, our affin­ity with the sea goes back to time im­memo­rial when hu­mans dis­cov­ered that wood floats in the wa­ter, and started build­ing boats and then ships. Christo­pher Colum­bus, Vasco da Gama, the guys who surprised us here in 1652, who­ever trans­ported English con­victs to Aus­tralia, name them, they all used the oceans to at­tain their des­ti­na­tions on the ev­er­reced­ing hori­zons.

The skies only come into the pic­ture at the be­gin­ning of past cen­tury. Who­ever has le­git­i­mate claim to the hon­our of fly­ing the first air­craft, the Wright broth­ers or Gus­tav Weis­skopf, would be ex­hil­a­rated to know that their pi­o­neer­ing ef­fort led to more than 8 mil­lion peo­ple fly­ing ev­ery day by 2013; and that the more than 3.4 bil­lion peo­ple who flew in 2014 rep­re­sent 44% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion.

Our propo­si­tion is that a defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic of mod­ern so­ci­ety is its per­pet­ual mo­bil­ity, trav­el­ling across na­tional bor­ders for vary­ing lengths of time.

This glo­be­trot­ting lais­sez-faire is sub­jected to dif­fer­ing lev­els of con­trol de­fined by treaties among na­tions. We live in na­tion states and it is through in­ter­na­tional travel that harm­ful drugs and other con­tra­band are smug­gled into coun­tries; hu­man traf­fick­ing and trade in en­dan­gered plant and an­i­mal species too. It is there­fore fit­ting and proper that the au­thor­i­ties should want to in­stall bor­der con­trol posts. What is to­tally un­ac­cept­able is that in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers should be sub­jected to mal­treat­ment and ex­tor­tion by cor­rupt or un­pro­fes­sional of­fi­cials on our bor­der posts.

Nu­mer­ous stud­ies show that highly skilled and en­tre­pre­neur­ial mi­grants have a pos­i­tive im­pact on the economies of their adop­tive coun­tries. In­deed, some of the most suc­cess­ful coun­tries boast large im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tions. Re­cently, some­body found it nec­es­sary to in­form US Pres­i­dent Donald Trump that Steve Jobs’ fa­ther was an im­mi­grant from Syria. Other im­mi­grants were Al­bert Ein­stein and Trevor Noah, to men­tion but a few among hun­dreds of thou­sands of out­stand­ing in­di­vid­u­als with mi­grant back­grounds.

A dis­turb­ing trend has seen many coun­tries – eco­nom­i­cally ad­vanced and de­vel­op­ing – im­ple­ment­ing im­mi­gra­tion laws, rules and reg­u­la­tions aimed at staunch­ing the flow of im­mi­grants.

Coun­tries have be­come more se­lec­tive in the type of mi­grant they wel­come, mainly fo­cus­ing on skilled work­ers. Con­cerns about the im­pact of large im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tions on their wel­fare bud­gets, un­em­ploy­ment, cul­tural dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion, na­tional se­cu­rity, al­leged in­crease in crime, are of­ten cited as rea­sons for tight­en­ing up im­mi­gra­tion laws.

In 2015, South Africa at­tracted over 2.5 mil­lion over­seas trav­ellers and 7.5 mil­lion from the con­ti­nent. The lat­ter come mainly for busi­ness, trade, shop­ping, ed­u­ca­tional and health­care op­por­tu­ni­ties. This is apart from un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants who come in search of em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and busi­ness in the in­for­mal sec­tor. South Africa has the op­por­tu­nity to tap into the highly skilled and en­tre­pre­neur­ial mi­grant seg­ment.

The im­por­tance of a well-ar­tic­u­lated im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy and strat­egy can­not be over­stated. To achieve the goals of the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan (NDP) – a doc­u­ment much cited but lit­tle read, even by gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials – we need to over­haul the cur­rent dis­as­trous ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem as a mat­ter of in­de­scrib­able ur­gency.

It is heart­en­ing to learn of the plans by Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba to up­grade the qual­ity of im­mi­gra­tion leg­is­la­tion. If care­fully con­sulted among stake­hold­ers, it should go a long way to­wards ad­vanc­ing the ob­jec­tives of the NDP.

Given South Africa’s phe­nom­e­nal tourism as­sets, the sec­tor has the po­ten­tial to enor­mously in­crease its con­tri­bu­tion to gross do­mes­tic prod­uct. Good na­tional lead­er­ship, now in dis­tress­ingly short sup­ply, will be a sine qua non for the re­al­i­sa­tion of the oft-re­peated mantra of poverty al­le­vi­a­tion, em­ploy­ment cre­ation and the re­duc­tion of in­equal­ity. Grow­ing xeno­pho­bic vi­o­lence is not as­sisted by the poor han­dling of th­ese ex­cesses by the lead­ers.

The vi­sion of the ANC’s founders was im­bued with Pan-African­ism. The ANC of 1912 spawned oth­ers in present-day Zim­babwe and Zam­bia. Del­e­gates from Le­sotho, Swazi­land and Botswana were present at the ANC’s found­ing. Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica be­came the an­thems of in­de­pen­dent Zam­bia, Zim­babwe and Tan­za­nia.

The man­age­ment of the econ­omy and an en­light­ened, Afrophilic in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions strat­egy should be able to sus­tain this vi­sion, even in the face of high lev­els of un­em­ploy­ment. With all due re­spect to lat­ter-day rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies, the Madiba na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion strat­egy in the face of a frag­ile tran­si­tion was spot-on. That oth­ers did not re­cip­ro­cate does not in­val­i­date the strat­egy.

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