Executive mayor of the City of Joburg, Herman Mashaba. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi (ANA) Archives

Johannesburg - Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba wants Parliament to hold the Department of Home Affairs accountable for the "illegal immigration crisis" he said the City is facing.

This, he said, was because his attempts in the past three years to engage the five ministers of Home Affairs in addressing the issue of undocumented immigrants have been ignored.

Mashaba said he wrote to the Chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee for Home Affairs Bongani Bongo on Monday, requesting an opportunity to appear before the portfolio committee to provide a briefing on the "dysfunctional state" of the Department of Home Affairs.

"For almost three years and five Ministers of Home Affairs later, I have continuously attempted to engage the Department and the Ministers on the illegal immigration crisis facing Johannesburg.

"These efforts were made in total good faith and in the best interests of Johannesburg and its residents. Sadly, for the most part, these efforts have been ignored outright. The Department is completely dysfunctional and failing in its constitutional obligation to address the issue of undocumented immigrants.

"It has therefore become necessary to take up this crisis with Parliament, in the hope that the Department of Home Affairs will finally be held unaccountable," he said.

Mashaba said that as the City, they were expected to proactively plan and budget for the provision of basic services to all residents. However, the fact that they do not know who resides in the City makes effective plan and budgeting challenging.

The City’s Health Department, he said, was one of the victim of that inability to plan and budget accurately due to many undocumented foreign nationals who use their clinics.

"A report by the Health Department outlining its struggle to cope with the additional pressure brought about by undocumented immigrants, highlighted that between 15-39% of patients accessing City’s clinics were undocumented immigrants.

"The City currently faces numerous challenges, including a housing backlog of an estimated 300 000 units. Within the context of the Johannesburg, illegal immigration compounds serious challenges in the provision of basic services and temporary emergency accommodation (TEA) to residents. 

"As a City, we are also expected to proactively budget and plan for the provision of TEA, should residents be rendered homeless as a result of evictions or natural disasters.

Mashaba also stated that in July 2017  the City housed over 600 undocumented Tanzanian immigrants at the Wembley Stadium following a fire at the Cape York building in the inner city where they had been living.

He said Home Affairs should have sent officials to the stadium to determine the legal status of those Tanzanian nationals, issue those that qualified with the requisite papers and removed those who were illegally in the country. 

"The City went so far as to engage the Tanzanian Embassy, who were willing to provide the City and the Department with assistance. However the undocumented immigrants refused this assistance.

"It has been over two years since the City first provided the required TEA and the undocumented Tanzanian nationals continue to reside at Wembley Stadium.

"Just last week, the streets of the inner city were turned into chaos as hundreds of shop owners attacked the SAPS and the metro police who were conducting a raid on the sale of illicit and counterfeit goods by the shop owners, whom were predominantly foreign nationals. The SAPS and JMPD were violently pelted with stones and other projectiles.

"It is evident that the Department is failing in its responsibility to ensure that people entering our country are processed and timeously provided with relevant documentation.

"We cannot remain silent in the face of the breakdown of the rule of law in our country, and the rising human crisis. Ultimately, the casualties of the Department’s inaction will be our poorest residents, and indeed, law-abiding foreign nationals.

The Star