PROUD PROTEST: Concerned South African citizens as well as foreigners gathered yesterday at the metro-centre (mayor Herman Mashabas office) to protest and hand over a memorandum to the mayor for his comments about illegal migrants in Braamfontein. Picture: Simone Kley

‘WE ARE foreigners and we are proud!” These were the words of about 50 foreign nationals who protested outside Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba’s offices in Braamfontein on Monday.

The group, led by the African Diaspora Forum, called on Mashaba to retract his “reckless comments about illegal migrants”.

Earlier this month, Mashaba
caused a stir when he said illegal immigrants were linked to criminal activity in the city and called for their deportation.

Marc Gbaffou, chairperson of the forum, said: “This is not the way to solve the problems in your city. Not all migrants are criminals; crime doesn’t have a nationality, so we ask that you please stop stereotyping.

“We ask the mayor: retract your statements about migrants and rather use your words to unite the people.”

Gbaffou was also critical of South Africa’s border control and said Home Affairs was failing foreigners in the country.

“Don’t leave your borders open and then blame those who by nature are walking in for the problems. The mayor must meet Home Affairs before blaming migrants.

“Migrants need to regularise their stay in the country; as such it’s the government’s responsibility to provide them with the necessary permits, visas and documents.

“They want to open bank accounts, register to pay tax, open businesses legally and send their children to school,” he added.

“Some migrants are asylum seekers and refugees from their countries of origin. It is wholly unwise for the mayor to expose them to their respective embassies in South Africa.

“We are calling on the mayor to work together with us to deal with the problems migrants are facing,” Gbaffou said.

The protesters carried flags and placards, which read: “Mashaba must apologise” and “I am proudly kwere-kwere but not a criminal”.

The group sang and danced as they waited to hand over a memorandum.

Activist Trevor Ngwane, who is also a member of the United Front, reminded those present that many Struggle icons and freedom fighters took refuge in African countries.

“Now that South Africa is a democracy, we can’t be making right-wing statements like this; we should unite. I don’t agree with Mashaba, and the EFF must denounce him,” he said.

MMC for community development Nonhlanhla Sifumba signed and accepted the memorandum on Mashaba’s behalf.