There were concerns that these issues run the risk of divisive campaigning and heightening the threat of xenophobic violence.
Last year’s comments by Health Minister Aaron Motsoledi about immigrants overburdening the health system was used as an example of how this could lead to anti-immigrant feelings. He said South Africa needed to review its immigration policies to control the number of undocumented and illegal immigrants in the country.
“The weight that foreign nationals are bringing to the country has got nothing to do with xenophobia, it’s a reality. Our hospitals are full, we can’t control them,” Motsoledi said at the time.
Sally Hurt, head of advocacy at the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, said: “There is a strong need to shift the narrative and health is a big topic as we lead into elections.