“Migrants are responsible for crime! Migrants are responsible for failed healthcare system! Migrants are responsible for rats in Alexandra! Migrants are responsible for hijacked buildings! Migrants are responsible for shortage of cheap accommodation! Migrants are responsible for poor or no rubbish collection! Migrants are responsible for fake goods! Migrants bring Ebola! Migrants are responsible for police bribery and corruption! This is long starting to sound like a broken or scratched gramophone record”.
We understand the pressures of seeking election or re-election in politics. Election season always brings about mudslinging and certain ills whose repercussions have far reaching consequences. No matter the circumstances we cannot gamble with human life and incite other people to do wrong things to save our own skins. Starting from last year the issue of service delivery has resurfaced as new and peddled as problematic by many political leaders. We all know it is problematic but the important questions is why is it a problem?
The electorate needs services, and someone is passing the buck rather than face the music for the failure. Crime is a consequence of the economy not producing adequate jobs and dustbins not collected are a result of poor planning and hiring non-performing service providers or not hiring adequate service providers. The Premier of the Western Cape has been caught on the offside a number of times with the blame shifting on housing issues and the problems of accommodation stretching from as far back as in 2012 to very recently. She referred to students from Eastern Cape as refugees1 obviously because she might have felt that they were leaving an ANC led province to a DA led province hence causing problems for her. She then moves to blame housing shortages to poor blacks.2 This is the blame shifting that we are concerned with. Always blaming failures on migrants if one has no capacity to deliver. Imagine inmigration being the problem because provinces are led by different political parties.
The migrant community is not in South Africa to commit crime. Yes, migrants are sometimes found committing crime and it is not excusable. It is the nature of human beings to commit crime no wonder we have prisons, human but not migrants. Because migrants are human, they commit crime but not because they are migrants. The very same pressures that cause any human in their native country to commit crime are the same forces that apply to migrants because they are not immune to anything that affects humanity. It is the fallibility of humanity not migrants.
The current script that is circulating on migrants overburdening the health sector is very unfortunate and deeply regrettable. This is an example of service delivery failure. It happens the world over hence the Obamacare in America to make healthcare accessible and NHI here in South Africa. Service delivery can be affected by the quality, inaccessibility due to costing or shortage and other factors and in this case it is claimed that it is stretched making it inaccessible due to shortage and the fault is being pinned on migrants. This could not be furthest from the truth.
The claim is that migrants steal medication by visiting different clinics to go and sell the medicine in their countries, this is preposterous in the absence of empirical evidence to even discuss. It is further alleged that migrants occupy all hospital beds, some claimed 4 in 5 beds are occupied by foreigners, mathematical that either means that there are 4 times more migrants in South Africa than there are South Africans or that migrant migrants are the ones who fall sick more than South Africans. This translates to saying in South Africa again there must be more migrants than locals because if in all hospitals 4 in 5 patients are migrants, then all migrants are in hospital, and we all know that is not true because we have many migrants out of hospitals. 4 in 5 means we have 228 million migrants in South Africa and no census has picked that.
The information by the Health Minister last year on Charlotte Maxeke Hospital pointed to 57% babies born in a given month as migrant and at Steve BikoHospital he said 60%. This information can only be explained in two ways. 1. that about 60% of the population in South Africa is migrant or deliver in public hospitals and based on this information without qualifying it to mention the circumstances of the hospital, or locality then truly this is misleading and it is a statistical fact but it is not qualified to show why that does not represent or lead to deductive conclusions being correct from that data. 2. The second premise would be that migrants come from all over SADC to have babies delivered in South Africa and migrants make more babies than South Africans. These would be erroneous premises or deductions, but the information provided leads to this and such conclusions will infuriate a person who has not the capability to analyse or has not been given more to understand who is South African and not receiving the services they know it’s due to them, this is why such information is misleading and dangerous because it is taken at face value.
This month much about the financial burden caused by migrants has been said and the minister mentioned that too last year. This again falls short of the mathematical and logical reasoning around the fiscus of the country. Migrants living in South Africa either regular or irregular contribute to the fiscus. The public purse is funded through taxation which is mainly not income tax only but goods or consumption tax. Not all South Africans pay income tax because there is a threshold and all South Africans pay some tax just like all migrants pay some tax. Tax on transport, food, clothes all goes into the public purse and the same money is public funds financing healthcare, education and other public services. All migrants pay this kind of tax.
It is misleading therefore to say migrants access healthcare for free, it is not True! Furthermore, to say migrants must pay for healthcare is unconstitutional and unfair because many regular migrants pay income tax and all other taxes and why must they not be treated like South Africans when they should be? That would be unfair discrimination and xenophobic because it will be targeted to segregate unfairly migrants and treat them as lesser human beings. The Premier of Gauteng accedes to the need to never refuse treatment to migrants but rather hold to account the governments of migrants for failing to provide healthcare to their people. That is a progressive stance in that this must lead to a discourse into why citizens of these countries are flocking to South Africa and ultimately could help resolves the cause of the one-sided migration down South, and thus afford equal development across Africa thereby spreading the benefits of migration.
Migration has more benefits than ills in any case. 3 South Africa has NSFAS and many African countries have or had some form of Higher education scheme to educate university and college graduates, but they never get to reap the rewards of this training because they had no employment to offer these graduates after university hence they left, but South Africa is benefitting from where it did not sow. This is good for South Africa and even in terms of FDI through small businesses, medium businesses and large corporates that come to South Africa due to its political stability and market predictability but these countries because of their failure cannot benefit from these. South Africa cannot be blamed for this.
Election season is coming with populist statements that excuse failure from responsible authorities pinning it on migrants to divert the attention of the electorate from the failure which is caused by capacity of those in charge and focusing it on defenceless migrants who are victims of politicians. This is not the spirit of ubuntu. It is un-African, to throw migrants under the bus yet the politicians know very well that the migrants are not the reason for these failures and furthermore that the migrants are far away from native countries not by choice but because of their politician peers in those countries who are victimising these people.
Migrants are not the enemy, they are not responsible for the failure in the healthcare system, many professionals, doctors and nurses are migrants who have left these countries. Who will treat these migrants in those countries? Let leaders be responsible and balance the views. If we take professionals, we leave the country with less potential and capacity and many people will follow these professionals to follow services. Instead let politicians talk about fixing Africa by talking these rogue political leaders destroying Africa so that Africa can benefit equally from its natural resources including the human resources and intellect that now South Africa enjoys alone. It is this rhetoric that we hear Premier Makhura talking about engaging these governments, this is the approach to use to develop Africa as a whole, this sounds like a 21st century kind of sentiment that must be taken to AU, SADC and other African regional bodies not to protect the murderous rogue Presidents that litter the African continent. After the 2019 SOPA by Premier Makhura it will be unjust to read what is not in his statement, he is very alert to the role of migrants in building Gauteng, the in-migration that causes overburdening of service delivery as the Province is growing exponentially, the value of FDI and migrant communities in job creation.
Migrants do not consume services for free, they pay tax, they pay rentals, they pay for electricity and water. Of course, the challenge is that, is the country growing at the rate at which it must be growing and demanding these services? Is the infrastructural growth commensurate to the rate at which consumption and the demands of the population is growing? If not, how can this be rectified because growth is always good even when migrants go back the natives will always enjoy the development.
Refugees and migrants are human beings, with human rights which are protected in the South African Constitution and even through international instruments that South Africa ratifies. Migration cannot and must not be criminalised. South Africa is a Constitutional Democracy entrenched on the rule of law.
In a world where even animals can migrate freely several times a year to survive the change in seasons, those in power deny other human beings the same right. For the undocumented migrants who are attempting by every means possible to erase the barriers that are relentlessly put up to stop them from going in search of a better future, that is the sad reality. Illegal migration is created by politicians and their laws. Migrants are neither thieves nor murderers. They are just people who, after having tried unsuccessfully to survive in their own countries, are looking for protection and work elsewhere. That is exactly what rich people, called “investors”, are doing every day; circulating freely throughout the world in search of business opportunities. Yet, we do not hear the same cries of indignation for this type of migration, and the exploitation of the poorest people in destination countries, the corruption of politicians and the environmental pollution that underpin it. Indeed, the poor and disadvantaged are door mats of all to abuse and scorn and scoff at.
Joint Statement by Africa Unite and African Diaspora Forum
1 https://mg.co.za/article/2012-04-20-comment-about-refugees-haunts-zille (Date of use: 07 March 2019). 2 https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-06-12-helen-zille-draws-the-wrong-lessons-from-n2-gatewaysfailure/ (Date of use: 07 March 2019). 3 OECD/ILO (2018), How Immigrants Contribute to South Africa’s Economy, ILO, Geneva/OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10/1787/9789264085398-en