Johannesburg - Joburg Executive Mayor Herman Mashaba said he remained convinced the city was facing a “crisis of illegal immigration” in its health services and housing during his State of the City Address on Tuesday.
Mashaba said during his tenure in office he had spoken to the national government to address the issue of the massive influx of undocumented foreigners who were putting enormous pressure on the resources meant for the city’s residents, without any success.
“After two-and-a-half years in government, I remain convinced, now more than ever, that our city faces a crisis of illegal immigration.
“In order to quantify the problem, 66 city-operated clinics in Johannesburg measured over the period of 2016 that over 32000 undocumented foreigners received treatment at our clinics.
“In 2018, this figure rose to 83 000, which translated into 15-30% of all patients receiving medical treatment at our clinics (are migrants),” said Mashaba during his third address, marked by disruptions by the opposition which led to the ANC councillors walking out in protest.
Two opposition councillors refused to take their seats and ignored the speaker’s request to leave the chambers.
After more than 20 minutes, private security was called in to remove the disruptive councillors.
On housing challenges facing the city, Mashaba said: “An audit of our social and RDP housing is under way, but early indications would demonstrate that a large number of the occupants of these facilities are undocumented foreign nationals.
“There can be no doubt that the immigration crisis in our country is contributing to pressures on government to provide services with limited funding.”
Mashaba said he remained committed to the constitutional obligations and recognised many law-abiding foreigners wanted to contribute to the city but were struggling to get legal papers, because Home Affairs could not process them as asylum seekers.
“I have engaged national government for over two years and with three different ministers of home affairs. I have found no support arising from these efforts. I have come to the view that illegal immigration will not be treated with any level of importance, until a different party occupies the Union Buildings,” he said.
Meanwhile, African Diaspora Forum chairperson Doctor Vusumuzi Sibanda said: “We at the Diaspora Forum are always concerned with sweeping statements made by the mayor on illegal immigration because, as we agree, there are issues related to undocumented migrants or irregular migrants, but the issue is that statistics about people going to hospitals without documents does not mean that those people are immigrants.
“Many South Africans do not have documents already. We have helped and are dealing with cases of young South African children without documents because the system makes it impossible to get those documents.
“Our plea is that these statements that cause hatred and xenophobia are irresponsible from leaders if they are not dealing with the root cause but rather the end result.
“If the mayor feels he has a case against Home Affairs, he must go to court on this.
“The mayor has not agreed to meet with us to discuss the issues he keeps raising. We wrote to him to discuss and find a solution, but he has never met with us but talks about us.”