A ‘rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent’ at­ti­tude to­wards work

Weekend Witness - - News -

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mi­grants (IOM) spokesper­son Ntokozo Mahlangu said most for­eign­ers come to South Africa with hopes of find­ing work. “It’s re­ally quite sad to see them leav­ing their fam­i­lies, leav­ing ev­ery­thing they had and com­ing to this. The dream is shat­tered.”

Mahlangu said while try­ing to piece their lives to­gether, the dif­fi­cult part for some mi­grants is fac­ing the sim­mer­ing re­sent­ment from some South Africans.

“Some South Africans feel that these African mi­grants are com­ing in and tak­ing away jobs from them.”

In April 2015, a wave of at­tacks tar­get­ing mi­grants re­sulted in seven deaths, with thou­sands of peo­ple flee­ing the coun­try.

Ac­cord­ing to Xenowatch, a plat­form to mon­i­tor xeno­pho­bia launched by the African Cen­tre for Mi­gra­tion and So­ci­ety based at the Uni­ver­sity of Wits, the at­tacks on for­eign-owned shops are the third most com­mon form. The plat­form has mapped at­tacks on for­eign­ers, and it has counted 227 acts of loot­ing — the third most preva­lent form of at­tack after dam­age to prop­erty (254 in­ci­dents) and as­sault (240 in­ci­dents). The map­ping in­cludes at­tacks from 1994 to May 2018.

In May, the North Re­gion Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion or­dered for­eign shop­keep­ers out of town­ships of Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu in the north of Dur­ban, but the threat was quashed after po­lice kept for­eign shopown­ers safe.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2017 re­port by the In­sti­tute of Race Re­la­tions (IRR), most for­eign na­tion­als seek­ing a bet­ter life in South Africa make it through sheer hard work and sac­ri­fice to­wards an im­proved life that had been de­nied back in their own coun­tries.

Ti­tled “South Africa’s Im­mi­grants – Build­ing a New Econ­omy”, IRR re- searcher Rian Malan said his re­search showed how most mi­grants suc­ceed in South Africa, some­times through good busi­ness acu­men and abil­ity to start from scratch and move up.

The re­port said that po­lit­i­cal re­pres­sion or wars, es­pe­cially in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo (DRC), So­ma­lia, Ethiopia, and Zim­babwe, push the cit­i­zens to South Africa, whose rel­a­tively strong econ­omy is at­trac­tive to them.

Malan used three case stud­ies of So­ma­lis tak­ing over the spaza shop busi­ness in town­ships, Zim­bab­weans wait­ing ta­bles and manag­ing res­tau­rants in Jo­han­nes­burg and the mush­room­ing of trad­ing in the Jo­han­nes­burg CBD started by Ethiopi­ans at a time when mu­nic­i­pal au­thor­i­ties ne­glected the in­ner city.

The im­mi­grants’ strong net­works en­sured that their fel­low coun­try­men ac­cessed op­por­tu­ni­ties as well when they ar­rive in the coun­try. They also have to start from the bot­tom, and some­times work for their al­ready suc­cess­ful coun­try­men for just meals “un­til they had paid the debt” and then start earn­ing to work their way up, the re­port showed.

“The sto­ries raise fun­da­men­tal ques­tions about the truth of these be­liefs [on im­mi­grants]. All are black, us­ing the broad def­i­ni­tion favoured by Pan-African­ists. As such, they must face ex­actly the same forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion as black South Africans, and many ad­di­tional ob­sta­cles be­sides ram­pant xeno­pho­bia, such as a bank­ing in­dus­try that is un­will­ing to open ac­counts for them and a gov­ern­ment that de­nies them all man­ner of ben­e­fits avail­able to black South Africans ... in­clud­ing state sub­si­dies for black en­trepreneurs and par­tic­i­pa­tion in pref­er­en­tial pro­cure­ment schemes that re­quire for­mal sec­tor busi­nesses to place a por­tion of their or­ders with black sup­pli­ers,” said the re­port.

“And yet, for­eign­ers make it here. Some of the sto­ries told here might con­vey the mis­lead­ing im­pres­sion that all mi­grants are pulling R20 000 a month as wait­ers in posh res­tau­rants or buy­ing in­ner-city build­ings with suit­cases full of cash. These are ex­cep­tional cases ...”

In the re­port, Malan says that the im­mi­grants achieve their goals in a for­eign coun­try such as South Africa as they come with a “rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent” at­ti­tude to­wards work, born out of des­per­a­tion.

Malan added that a sur­vey con­ducted in 2008 showed that 80% of South Africa’s un­em­ployed were also des­per­ate for work and will­ing to start for very lit­tle, pro­vided there was some prospect of ad­vance­ment in the long run.

“But 62% said this got them nowhere, be­cause there were sim­ply no jobs avail­able. For­eign­ers dis­pute this claim, con­tend­ing that there are all sorts of op­por­tu­ni­ties here for those will­ing to start at the bot­tom or cre­ate work for them­selves.” — WWR.

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