Ubuntu for at-risk foreigners
JOBURG is the continent’s Eldorado, a wondrous city of golden opportunities for all who flock here seeking the mythical better life. But there is a dark side to the glistering. As we reported yesterday, there is no room left in the cells at various Joburg police stations because of all the illegal immigrants rounded up and held before processing and, we would assume, ultimate deportation.
The bottleneck has become so bad that Home Affairs officials have asked the police to stop clamping down on undocumented foreigners because there’s no space to house them.
On the other side of the coin, executive mayor Herman Mashaba is determined to clean up hijacked buildings in the inner city because they’re not just social welfare problems with vulnerable people being preyed on by slumlords and criminals. There’s also the issue of water and electricity theft that’s costing the city millions in lost revenue as well as being another health hazard.
The immigrants are illegal, so the only place they can live is one in which their vulnerability is further exploited. They are unable to get jobs, at least not in the formal economy, and they can’t access the services that the rest of us as citizens – or permanent residents – accept as our constitutional right, like health, security or education, to name but a few.
Living in a twilight world, they are forever looking over their shoulders waiting to be rounded up and deported, only to head back across our porous borders to find dubious accommodation in the inner city – and so the cycle continues.
It’s terribly, heartbreakingly sad, compounded by the fact that sporadically they’ll find themselves targeted by locals for being foreigners – often with fatal consequences.
Yet, at the same time, we cannot turn a blind eye to the slums in our inner city or anywhere else.
Is the answer not to take a leaf from Europe’s book and regularise the residence of our Southern African Development Community diaspora who call South Africa home, so they can start contributing to our broader society.
Isn’t that what ubuntu is all about?