Ubuntu for at-risk for­eign­ers

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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?

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