DA’s priority list falls short
A visit to home affairs must rank alongside trips to the dentist to have root canal done.
The frantic research to confirm which documents are needed.
Stalking Facebook to scout out which office, which town, what time will minimise the pain (is Poffadder too far?). Then the procrastination . . . embracing the principle of a good red wine – the longer you wait, the better it will be when you eventually pop the cork.
Finally, after every pathetic excuse has expired, off you go. Queues stretching around corners, people shuffling, numbered tickets, arrows on laminated notices pointing every which way.
You pray for the officials to be kind, for them not to institutionalise you when you turn into a blubbering idiot because you don’t know when your mother’s second cousin once removed was born.
Thus the DA’s election campaign that promises to turn water into wine at home affairs has an immediate connect with every poor soul who has turned up at the department’s door wishing for an alternate universe.
The DA has come out of the 2019 starting blocks early. It’s done its homework for the up- coming general election, and because there is no more president Zuma to provide instant momentum around an anyone-is-better campaign, they’ve hired pollsters to tell them what voters want.
Or at least it seems that’s the corporate-type approach they’ve taken. If it works for Coco-Cola, why shouldn’t it work for a political party too?
And so the DA has presented to voting adults its five priority areas. It promises zero-tolerance for corruption (specifically no more cash and sex for jobs).
It will speed up the delivery of basic services. It promises fair access to sustainable jobs. Combatting crime remains a big-ticket item, mainly by instantly turning our police force into a “lean, clean, crime-fighting machine”.
And then, it appears the DA went politics shopping in the good ole US-of-A. “Secure our borders” makes the favourites list. The same key campaign promise President Donald Trump rode into the White House on.
The DA protests the association, simultaneously trying to distance themselves from the “caravan” kids fleeing tear gas images currently hitting American screens, but also trying to tap into the sentiment President Trump has been exploiting with zeal – the idea that others are to blame for our woes. Pointing to our porous borders, the “mostly corrupt” department of home affairs, and broken asylum system, Messrs Maimaine and co assert that communities’ lack of confidence in the immigration system, not trusting who is legally here and who is not, creates the mistrust which leads to violence. This, despite the fact that no xenophobic mob has asked to see their victim’s immigration papers first.
And so it came to pass that on a Monday a few weeks ago mayor Herman Mashaba, claiming to be acting in the interest of the law and health of citizens, made his first citizen’s arrest. An allegedly undocumented informal meat trader pushing a trolley of freshly slaughtered cow’s heads down the street. Social media erupted in protest, but the mayor went for broke, “[we’re not] going to sit back and allow people like you to bring us Ebolas in the name of small business. Health of our people first. Our health facilities are already stretched to the limit”.
Two days later the mayorcome-sheriff climbed down from his high horse and issued his second formal apology for being insensitive to foreign residents.
Coincidently, on the same day the mayor turned bashful, the DA’s spokesperson on secure-our-borders, MP Jacques Julius, boldly ventured forth and crossed the broken border fence into Mozambique. Despite the irony that he now himself was an illegal, Mr Julius pronounced the party line, “no country in the world can afford to not secure their borders”.
The DA argument and call to action can be condensed into the following. Illegal immigrants supposedly place a strain on our resources (like housing and health care), bring crime with them across the borders, are seen to be stealing jobs and create unhappiness in our communities.
So we need to fix our borders, up our army and police presence and their equipment, build more border posts, sort out the corrupt home affairs, create an oversight agency, and send the illegals (nicely) home. It makes sense. It really does.
But there’s a problem – the practicality of it. The DA claims that our borders stretch some 4,800km.
That’s short of the CIA Factbook’s estimate of 5,244 km. Either way, it’s much further than the US-Mexico’s 3,145 km. President Trump has, on the quiet, had to scale down his grandiose wall plan to a stretch only a third of the border and it’s now more a best-fence-ever than something resembling the Great Wall of China.
Our engineering challenge is greater (try building an effective fence around Lesotho and patrolling it in the wind, rain and snow).
But that’s not the only practical issue. SA’s borders were the invention of a bunch of people sitting round a table in Europe, sorting out their African em- pires. Lines on a map, rivers, made more sense as boundaries than doing the work to understand tribal relations and centuries of trading routes.
So tribal areas straddling Mozambique and Kwa-Zulu Natal, trade routes between Great Zimbabwe and Mpungubwe now have a fence across them. Fences may stop animals, but they can’t stop rivers, nor will they stop people
The other problem is the principle of it.
It’s not quite the Ubuntu, love your neighbour, kind of way. We were all (excluding the San) migrants at some point.
The data is contested about whether migrants add more value than they extract.
But the data is clear on issues such as our collapsed education system, the degradation of our environment and the collapse of our state enterprises.
None of which (inexplicably) makes the DA priority list.
Why stake your claim on issue that seems relatively minor and gets mayor Mashaba backpeddling regularly?
Is politics about principles, or polls; about what works, or pie-in-the-sky sound bites?
The DA can definitely do better.