We’re not xenophobic, says South African First president Mario Khumalo

SAF president Mario Khumalo, whose political party is behind the #PutSouthAfricanFirst hashtag.

SAF president Mario Khumalo, whose political party is behind the #PutSouthAfricanFirst hashtag. File picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency/ANA

Published Aug 30, 2020


Johannesburg - South African First (SAF) president Mario Khumalo, whose political party is behind the #PutSouthAfricanFirst hashtag, says the government has failed to enforce the country’s immigration laws, give locals access to business spaces and punish corporates which flout labour policies.

Accusing the state of rewarding illegal immigrants with jobs and business rather than deporting them, Khumalo said the ANC government has put the security of the country and its people at risk.

The businessman, who registered SAF as a political party in December 2016, also rejected accusations that his organisation was xenophobic.

On Friday, Khumalo said the critics of his movement were using xenophobia as a label to silence rather than deal with the facts presented by his supporters.

“Each and everything we are saying is a fact. (The) truth doesn’t sit well with other people. But if people think that’s being xenophobic, that’s not our problem. It’s their issue because what we are saying is within the framework of the law. We are advocating that people who are breaking the law should be sent to their countries,” Khumalo said.

“That’s why in 2017 we put a motion against home affairs for violating the Immigration Act due to porous borders and undocumented foreign nationals at the Pretoria High Court. Now that we have a lockdown, everything has been put on hold until we find a new directive to continue with the motion.”

According to the court papers, the Department of Home Affairs and its former minister Ayanda Dlodlo had been cited as the first and second respondent, respectively.

This came as President Cyril Ramaphosa told Parliament this week that his government would review immigration and its impact on economic activity.

“We need to understand that we must respond to the frustration of our own people at the violation of immigration laws and other regulations by those companies that employ foreign nationals illegally,” said Ramaphosa, while warning against “populist temptations” to blame unemployment on foreign nationals working in the country.

Last week, the Sunday Independent reported on the growing frustration among some South Africans who used the SAF hashtag to lambaste the government’s alleged failure to regulate undocumented foreigners and ensure locals received employment priority.

They had taken to social media to voice their concerns, accusing a section of the media of delegitimising their voices and giving foreign nationals space to bash them for complaining about their socio-economic conditions.

According to the results of Statistics SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the first quarter of 2020, the official unemployment rate increased by 1 percentage point to 30.1% compared with the fourth quarter of 2019. The number of unemployed people increased by 344 000 to 7.1 million while 38 000 jobs were lost.

Describing the SAF as a nationalist organisation which believes in national pride and identity, Khumalo said it would use non-violent means to achieve its aims and objectives. This included campaigning for the reforming of laws governing immigration, corporate tax, education, urban infrastructure and trade relations.

“Our short-term goal is to make sure laws are implemented strictly, making sure businesses comply with the law, some of them must be fined and some must lose their business licences. Also, to make sure South Africans have access to business spaces because the labour laws and employment services Act allows for our people to come first, but none of that is happening.

“Our medium-term (goal) is to look at the local government election coming up next year, which we will be contesting. And the long-term goal is for us to be in government, close the borders, start deporting people. Mass deportations because a lot of people came illegally. Home affairs is compromised. They keep selling documents.”

Spokesperson Siya Qoza rejected Khumalo’s accusations that the Department of Home Affairs failed to enforce immigration laws and rewarded illegal immigrants with jobs and special permits.

“The Special Permits are not a permanent feature of the SA immigration policy. They are one of the tools available worldwide to manage and regulate immigration. Such exemption have been used in the management of migration is SA since 1937. The beneficiaries of these exemptions have evolved as SA moved from being a Union, to a Republic and democratic South Africa.

“Corruption, in the form of sale of IDs, is something the Minister does not tolerate. He has beefed up the capacity of the Anti-Corruption Unit in the Department to root out corrupt elements. He has put the anti-corruption drive high on the agenda.”

Qoza confirmed that SAF filed a motion against the department, adding that they were “opposing the matter in court as there is no merit whatsoever in the argument advanced by the applicants”.

African Diaspora Forum spokesperson Amir Sheikh dismissed the South Africa First movement as a “campaign of hatred” led by Khumalo, former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba, African Transformation Movement president Vuyo Zungula, the National Truck Drivers Association, among others, and supported by the ANC. Sheikh denied that illegal African migrants have benefited from the sale of ID documents, jobs and businesses.

“The fact of the matter is that for the past seven years, migrants in SA did not get any recognition. And the rejection rate as per Minister Motsoaledi himself was almost 95 percent, hence that would remove the notion that we are getting documents or ID fraudulently. The second thing, in today’s world, we have seen a pattern in the US and Europe where actually the right-wing, populist, anti-immigrant parties are gaining momentum.

“So the likes of SAF, Herman Mashaba’s party are riding on an anti-immigration platform so that at least they get relevance,” Sheikh said.

“As for Lerato Pillay, I think it’s the government’s role to close the accounts that give inflammatory information because everything that they write is tantamount to hate speech and hate crime.

“It’s not put SA first, it’s put their interests first and the South Africans are used as a stepping ladder so that they can reach their goals. At the end of the day, when these people get to power, the poor electorates would not see them again.”

In recent years, South Africa has faced growing illegal immigration- related violent incidents. Local truck drivers blocked the N3 highway between Johannesburg and Durban, torching cars and attacking foreign drivers.

They accused truck owners of hiring mostly foreigners because they provided cheap labour.

They also accused the departments of labour and transport of having failed to regulate the influx of foreign truck drivers who possessed scarce skills.

The government denied the accusation, blaming the violence on criminal elements.

In May 2008, 62 people were killed during the first xenophobic-related attacks in the country as locals and foreign nationals fought over scarce jobs and basic services at the height of the global economic meltdown. The violence broke out in Alexandra, and spread to seven other provinces.

Khumalo said SAF was first mooted in 2008 following the attacks but was registered with the Electoral Commission of South Afric (IEC) on November 18, 2016.

“So we were founded on those principles, to realise there is a problem in this country, and nobody seems to pay attention. The reason we were founded it is because we are against violence. There was no political voice to address this issue,” he added.

Khumalo said the party’s leadership included Mogale City community activist Mamohlale Modigoe, who is secretary general, former Tshwane DA councillor Dorris Mnguni, who is deputy secretary general, national chairperson Victoria Mamogobo, who is the founder of women empowerment group Victoria Africa Foundation, and businessman and national spokesperson Garth Goodman.

The SAF was looking to overhaul the “whole demographics” of South Africa, said Khumalo, including state-owned enterprises, diplomatic relations and the membership of the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

“We are financing SADC and the AU. Africa is barely contributing anything. In return, we get an influx of undocumented people, people who aren’t coming to the country based on scarce skills, take the very little jobs South Africans are supposed to have, which is very wrong. Our immigration laws are strict.

“The laws are not being implemented. When you look at the Defence Act, section 12, subsection A and B, soldiers should be deployed at all times and the soldiers have the right to actually stop anyone they suspect of being illegally in the country, and deport them if needs be. It’s not happening,” he added.

Dr Xolani Dube, a political commentator from the Xubera Institute, agreed with Khumalo that xenophobia was being used to silence indigenous South Africans.

“In SA, there is what we call re-engineering South African nationhood. It’s a deliberate strategy and endeavour from those who control this country with the sole aim of disempowering the indigenous people of South Africa from their legitimate voice of reclaiming what belongs to them. They call this xenophobia because they want to silence South Africans,” Dube said.

Part of the re-engineering strategy was to deliberately misinterpret the concept of pan-Africanism to mean what it’s not, he added.

“They use it for opportunistic reasons. Pan-Africanism is not saying you have to abscond or you have to neglect your country of origin or country of birth. It’s not about that.

“Pan-Africanism is about sharing the common mission of developing Africa. It’s not saying anyone must go to one country, stay in that country and compete with people who are in that country. It’s about complementing, it’s about sharing, it’s about that which unites us.”

Dube added that the strategy of re-engineering was widely used by the West, especially the British, to silence, fragment and neutralise nationalist movements in their former African colonies post-liberation.

“That’s how the process starts. It starts at the universities, and goes to the so-called tertiary employment, the most influential employment, and then goes down to cheap labour.

“It’s going to have an outcome, and that outcome is to say, at the end of the day, no one is a South African because everyone is a South African,” Dube maintained.

The Sunday Independent

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