DA’s pri­or­ity list falls short

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Opinion - GARY KOEKEMOER

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.

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