A lot’s rid­ing on Gi­gaba

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

Min­is­ter must trans­form our im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy now at the mercy of bu­reau­cratic in­ten­tions

IN A RE­CENT ar­ti­cle, “How South Africa is be­com­ing a closed so­ci­ety”, I de­cried the en­demic in­ef­fi­ciency at the De­part­ment of Home Af­fairs (DHA). warned that bu­reau­cratic bar­ri­ers to the in­flow of for­eign­ers are threat­en­ing South Africa’s vi­a­bil­ity as a desti­na­tion for for­eign-di­rect in­vest­ment and tal­ent.

I ac­cused Min­ster of Home Af­fairs Malusi Gi­gaba of ne­glect­ing to pay suf­fi­cient at­ten­tion to the role of for­eign­ers in the econ­omy, and called our for­eign pol­icy “in­ward-look­ing”. I stand firmly by each of these views and, for as long as the DHA con­tin­ues to need­lessly thwart im­mi­gra­tion, I am ob­li­gated to de­fend them.

How­ever, praise must be given where praise is due. Gi­gaba de­serves con­struc­tive crit­i­cism for what he has ac­com­plished, and for the tra­jec­tory he has plot­ted for him­self. With­out a con­tex­tu­alised view of his at­tributes and short­com­ings, and an in­crease in civil so­ci­ety’s sup­port of him, he can­not suc­ceed in rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing South Africa’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

Gi­gaba is a re­spon­sive min­is­ter. He is re­spon­sive to his party as he is re­spon­sive to cab­i­net pol­icy, to the ex­tent of de­fend­ing the pres­i­dent against all odds. But, he is also judged by his abil­ity to trans­form the DHA into an ef­fi­cient bu­reau­cratic ma­chine in­tel­li­gently em­brac­ing the con­tri­bu­tions of for­eign­ers to South Africa’s na­tional in­ter­ests. There are signs that Gi­gaba is bridg­ing the DHA’s ser­vice deficit, but not speed­ily enough.

The min­is­ter is well-sea­soned, and has the courage of his con­vic­tions. He was the long­est-serv­ing ANC Youth League (ANCYL) pres­i­dent, but he did not hes­i­tate in chastis­ing its lead­er­ship – la­belling them an­ar­chists – when they called for wide­spread na­tion­al­i­sa­tion of the state’s re­sources in 2011.

Nor did he wa­ver in his con­dem­na­tion of the ho­mo­pho­bic and anti-Semitic Amer­i­can pas­tor Steven An­der­son’s hate speech to­wards the LGBTI com­mu­nity, ex­er­cis­ing his right to deny him a visa de­spite the fact that ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is shunned within the norms of tra­di­tional Zulu cul­ture.

While the ANC has be­come a party of dic­ta­tor­ship, Gi­gaba has cre­ated his own brand of in­tel­lec­tual lead­er­ship. His po­lit­i­cal prow­ess was recog­nised in 2012 when he was first put for­ward for one of the top six po­si­tions in gov­ern­ment. In the wake of the ANC’s dis­ap­point­ing elec­tion re­sults this year, some have hailed him as one of sev­eral fu­ture lead­ers who have the po­ten­tial to re­ju­ve­nate the party.

Gi­gaba has re­ceived praise for his im­ple­men­ta­tion of im­mi­gra­tion amnesties for Zim­bab­wean and Le­sotho na­tion­als liv­ing in South Africa. Although laud­able, Gi­gaba’s im­ple­men­ta­tion of such lim­ited and ori­gin-spe­cific amnesties re­flects a po­lit­i­cal ul­te­rior mo­tive rather than a co­gent use of the amnesty process.

Gi­gaba must in­tro­duce an amnesty for all for­eign­ers liv­ing in South Africa in con­tra­ven­tion of the Im­mi­gra­tion Act be­cause if na­tional se­cu­rity needs and use of state re­sources are of para­mount im­por­tance to im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, then there ex­ists no other al­ter­na­tive.

Gi­gaba’s cre­ation of the Mkhaya Mi­grants Awards, in­tro­duced af­ter the wave of xeno­pho­bic vi­o­lence in South Africa in April 2015, is also of sig­nif­i­cance. He must con­tinue to act with a com­mit­ment to last­ing so­lu­tions, es­pe­cially the erad­i­ca­tion of xeno­pho­bia both within and out­side the ranks of the DHA.

June 2016 saw Gi­gaba’s wel­comed pub­li­ca­tion of a green pa­per on in­ter­na­tional mi­gra­tion, on which he has in­vited pub­lic com­ment. Gi­gaba was ap­pointed Home Af­fairs min­is­ter on May 26, 2014, the very day the last amend­ments to the Im­mi­gra­tion Act came into ef­fect. He has had two years to mea­sure the ex­tent of fail­ure of the cur­rent im­mi­gra­tion regime, a pe­riod of haem­or­rhage too pro­tracted to be vin­di­cated by a green pa­per. He could have eas­ily ob­served the fail­ure and acted more swiftly to stem the tide.

In Min­ster Buthelezi’s era, sec­tion 7 of the Im­mi­gra­tion Act paid full heed to Sec­tion 195(1)(e) of our con­sti­tu­tion, by em­brac­ing the full in­clu­sion of the pub­lic in reg­u­la­tion-mak­ing. When the Im­mi­gra­tion Act was amended on July 1, 2005, sec­tion 7 was pur­pose­fully re­pealed to ex­clude civil so­ci­ety from the process.

The de-democrati­sa­tion of im­mi­gra­tion reg­u­la­tion-mak­ing in this way vested the min­is­ter with au­to­cratic pow­ers of law­mak­ing with­out pub­lic or par­lia­men­tary over­sight. Gi­gaba must now grab a his­toric op­por­tu­nity to amend the act to bring sec­tion 7 back into the hands of the peo­ple, an ethos his com­mu­nist party cre­den­tials nat­u­rally prop­a­gate. Sec­tion 195(1)(e) of our con­sti­tu­tion be­hoves him to do so.

The min­ster must be­come more vig­i­lant as to what the bu­reau­cracy within DHA is do­ing. The se­ries of “sur­prise vis­its” to var­i­ous Home Af­fairs of­fices are a step in the right di­rec­tion, but, of course, they have noth­ing what­so­ever to do with ser­vice pro­vi­sion for for­eign­ers.

For­eign­ers are not served at the DHA of­fices. The min­is­ter has cre­ated a buf­fer be­tween him­self and for­eign­ers since ev­ery type of ap­pli­ca­tion con­tem­plated by leg­is­la­tion must be submitted through VFS, a pri­vate com­pany, not at DHA of­fices.

The min­is­ter has ob­vi­ously never un­der­taken an au­dit of the DHA’s ad­ju­di­ca­tion oper­a­tions and the ex­tent and cost of the lit­i­ga­tion waged against him and the DHA. If he did, he would quickly learn that for­eign­ers are pun­ished ev­ery day by de­pleted de­ci­sion-mak­ing and de­lays. He may also wish to learn that xeno­pho­bia is also mea­sured by the at­ti­tudes and be­hav­iour of DHA of­fi­cials.

We need to have faith in Gi­gaba be­cause his vi­sion takes him and us all into the fu­ture. But in do­ing so, he must recog­nise South Africa’s de­creas­ing com­pet­i­tive­ness in global terms, and must act quickly to reconnect this coun­try to the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­place of ideas, en­trepreneur­ship, FDI flows and skills.

South Africa’s for­eign con­sular of­fices must be over­hauled to act as show­cases for the coun­try, not as seats of an­tag­o­nism and xeno­pho­bia. Some of our con­sulates abroad, in­clud­ing Moscow, Ber­lin and The Hague, have dev­as­tated the very con­cept of South Africa as a coun­try com­mit­ted to the rule of law and “open for busi­ness”.

Gi­gaba has the ex­pe­ri­ence, the in­tel­lect and the pas­sion to be the change agent to lead South Africa into the 22nd cen­tury of im­mi­gra­tion pol­i­cy­mak­ing. Time will tell whether he will ful­fil these bur­den­some obli­ga­tions with the fi­nesse and style which char­ac­terises him.

He has cre­ated his own brand of in­tel­lec­tual lead­er­ship

ABLE: Min­is­ter of Home Af­fairs, Malusi Gi­gaba, is well-sea­soned and coura­geous, says the writer.

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