Johannesburg – The xenophobic attacks in Durban and Joburg, which have left seven people dead and many injured and deprived of their valuables, are as deplorable as they are regrettable.
More than 1,200 African and Syrian immigrants have drowned in the past 10 days while trying to make their way to Europe by way of the Italian island of Lampedusa, 113km off the Tunisian coast.
The world should be up in arms about the deaths of so many African and Middle Eastern refugees, while Europe dithers. This is a moral indictment of the civilised world and us all. Every life counts. Everyone matters.
Those who are privileged have a moral duty to protect those who are not. The world has enough resources and means to afford everyone a decent life. What it does not have is the will and commitment to do so. We need to summon that.
About 30 years ago, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, then a military dictator, ordered the mass deportation of about 700 000 African illegal immigrants when Nigerians complained they were taking their jobs. South Africa should not do that.
President Jacob Zuma has made it clear that South Africa will not chase anyone away. Instead, his administration wants to help those who want to stay to become integrated into communities.
It is encouraging that the process is under way, led by an interministerial task team chaired by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe and comprising, among others, David Mahlobo, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Bathabile Dlamini, Malusi Gigaba and Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
This is a global and regional problem. It’s not just South African. It requires global and regional resolutions. It’s simply too big and too complex for South Africa to resolve on its own. The crisis must be used to begin a global and regional strategic conversation about a collective global and regional approach to managing immigration.
The approach of some European countries that seek to shut out immigrants is as shocking as it is at odds with the duty to protect the world’s vulnerable and helpless.
The attacks on foreigners in South Africa are shocking. The outpouring of condemnation from all corners of the country, combined with Zuma’s leadership, regarding this tragic episode in our post-apartheid history is as encouraging as it is commendable. The world should join forces with South Africa to address this complex and far-reaching problem.
The attacks are an indictment of our individual and collective consciences as they undermine South Africa’s global stature and moral high ground in the concert of nations. The attacks are not just attacks on immigrants but a serious and regrettable assault on South Africa’s esteem in global and regional affairs.
South Africa’s destiny and prosperity are inextricably intertwined with the rest of Africa and vice versa. The damage is not irreparable. It can and must be undone through a well-co-ordinated national effort that leverages the capabilities in our society.
Zuma’s decisive response is commendable. We saw him suspend his overseas travel commitments and skip the key Africa-Asia summit in Indonesia.
He has been visible and assertive in rallying the nation around what has become a national campaign against xenophobia.
The campaign has united South Africans at home and abroad, as well as the international community, in condemning the attacks as unSouth African.
They are barbaric. They take us backwards. Not forward. South Africa has a duty and a responsibility to protect all those within its borders. So do countries the world over. South Africa, like many other counties, is bound by UN conventions on the protection of refugees and immigrants.
The duty to protect falls on the shoulders of all countries to which refugees choose to flee.
What, then, must be done to find long-term solutions to this problem? I strongly believe the war against xenophobia won’t be won in South Africa. The initiatives taken here thus far are commendable, but won’t be enough to stamp out this problem.
The war against xenophobia has to be fought two fronts: within South Africa’s borders and, equally important, beyond them. A regional and global solution is required. Zuma and the other SADC leaders should use their Harare Summit on Wednesday to formulate strategies that will unlock lasting solutions.
SADC leaders need to join forces and provide inspiring leadership to unlock workable and lasting solutions to the challenges of migration. A lasting solution has to entail creating enabling environments across all SADC countries for migrants. No single country in the region must be left to shoulder the burden of illegal migration alone. It’s simply unsustainable.
The burden must be shared. Each SADC country must commit itself to taking its fair share of illegal migrants. This has been done before. Vietnamese war migrants were fairly distributed across the rich world. The SADC alone may not be able to shoulder the whole burden of Africa’s illegal immigrants.
That is why I strongly believe rich countries should be prevailed upon to open their borders and welcome their fair share of illegal immigrants. This will also make economic sense, especially in Western and developed countries with ageing populations. It will contribute to the long-term economic and social viability of those countries.
Illegal migration is a global problem that requires global solutions. A key part of the solution is for the world to provide global public good, such as democracy, peace, education, health, welfare and development for all its people.
The deficit in global public good provision, especially in Africa, is at the core of this problem. SADC and the rest of Africa need to work hard and smart to create and perpetuate enabling environments that unlock prosperity for generations of Africans so they can play meaningful roles in perpetuating that prosperity for future generations.
This can and must done and it is, in the final analysis, the best way to say #no to xenophobia! We are one!
* Dlamini is a member of the national council of the SA Institute of International Affairs.
Source: The Sunday Independent