Home Affairs Minister Siyabonga Cwele on Sunday promised tough measures against those who had crossed the country’s borders illegally.
“As the ANC government we will deal with illegal and undocumented migrants in as far as it affects the security of the country. If you look at our manifesto, it says we will take tough measures against undocumented migrants involved in criminal activities here or cross-border Our commitment is there in protecting all the people living in South Africa against illegal activities,” he said.
Cwele is part of the ANC’s subcommittee on peace and security, which briefed the media on Sunday. His comments came in the wake of statements by Gauteng premier David Makhura last week that “specific nationalities are involved in some specific crimes: drugs, violent crimes and murders, including cash in transit heists”.
Makhura was subsequently accused in some quarters of xenophobia.
But Cwele denied there was any talk of xenophobia: “If you followed the President during the January 8 statement, he said we should engage our neighbours because they can assist us in dealing with this problem of illegal immigrants.”
Cwele said the government had demonstrated they were not xenophobic by offering Lesotho and Angolan nationals special permit programmes.
“The Lesotho special permit programme assisted us to deal with those Lesotho nationals who were illegal. Most of them were economic migrants. In all this we are trying to say that if you want to move to South Africa, do so legally.
"Foreign nationals are welcome to come to South Africa legally,” Cwele said.
“We’re not xenophobic. We welcome everyone to come through the front door, and exit using the door and not a window. That’s what we stand for, as ANC.”
Tony Yengeni, another member of the peace and stability committee, said the party also wanted to look into the status of foreign charismatic preachers whose churches were mushrooming all over the country.
“It is a process that comrade Bheki Cele and his team are involved in so they can get to know who these people are and whether their activities are legal or not. That’s a matter the Cabinet is pursuing because our people have responded negatively to what they are seeing; all sorts of abuses in these so-called churches. That matter is getting the attention of government.”