Human migrants should not have to cross our borders the way wildebeests
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Former president Thabo Mbeki envisioned an African renaissance, in support of which he, inter alia, pioneered the creation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, supported peacekeeping in the Great Lakes region and helped preserve the Manuscripts of Timbuktu.
Unfortunately, the third post-1994 administration has ushered in an era of “smallanyana skeletons”.
Thanks to South Africa’s contribution to the evolution of the English language we now have in our vocabulary “smallanyana”, coined by “clever blacks”, an endearing term President Jacob Zuma reserves for young, upwardly mobile black people who don’t always agree with his political management agenda. Smallanyana is smaller than small.
Minister of social development and ANC Women’s League president – heaven knows, they are in a league of their own! – hitched smallanyana a notch higher when she told a stunned nation that each person serving on the ANC’s national executive committee had a “smallanyana skeleton in the cupboard”. The jury, if not the Constitutional Court, is still out on whether the minister’s handling of the crooked SA Social Security Agency grant payments tender falls within the category of smallanyana skeletons.
Smallanyana could also refer to the appointment of Major General Mthandazo Ntlemeza as head of the Hawks, now set aside by the full Bench of the Pretoria High Court, which pronounced him as “lacking the requisite honesty, integrity and consciousness to occupy the national position as head of the Hawks”.
Let me conclude my directionless tedium by invoking the analogy of human migration to that of African plains game. Even as they have a propensity to migrate, human beings lack the synchronised splendor and spectacle of the giant herds of wildebeests, zebras and gazelles that annually migrate through the Serengeti and Masai Mara ecosystems in east Africa in search of green pasture. But our migrations, too, are as inevitable and predictable.
To attain their destination in the Mara, the wildebeests have to cross the Grumeti River, or “migration river”. But always lying in wait at this crossing point, is a float of crocodiles ready to convert the nimble-footed migrants into a sumptuous dinner. Don’t misunderstand me, please. I’m not talking about immigration officers at border control posts or at home affairs offices.
That task of assisting human migrants wade across their Grumeti is being courageously taken up by Eisenberg & Associates, who have over the past 20 years tactfully shepherded international travellers and helped them find their way through the plethora of rules (not crocodiles), regulations and laws that govern migration in South Africa and in other countries. Msimang is former director-general of home affairs. This is an extract of a speech he delivered at the 20th anniversary
of Eisenberg & Associates