Populist politicians’ power-plays

DA Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba had come under fire for his Twitter comments calling on the department of home affairs to “deal with’’ the large number of “uncontrolled’’ and undocumented foreigners in Alexandra. (Gallo)

DA Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba had come under fire for his Twitter comments calling on the department of home affairs to “deal with’’ the large number of “uncontrolled’’ and undocumented foreigners in Alexandra. (Gallo)

Despite a hard line on immigrants by leaders of both the ANC and the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the run-up to the May 8 elections, the two parties moved this week to condemn the attacks on foreign nationals in Durban and to unlink their rhetoric from the outbreak of xenophobia.

DA Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba had come under fire for his Twitter comments calling on the department of home affairs to “deal with’’ the large number of “uncontrolled’’ and undocumented foreigners in Alexandra, while the party’s hardline on border control in its manifesto for the national and provincial elections has also drawn criticism.

Gauteng ANC premier David Makhura has proposed that foreign nationals in the province pay for health services, while Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has blamed foreigners for draining the country’s health system and bringing it to the verge of collapse.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking at an ANC campaign event several weeks ago, said that foreign-owned businesses could no longer be allowed to operate in an unregulated manner.

“Everybody just arrives and sets up businesses in our townships and rural areas without licences and permits,’’ Ramaphosa said. “We are going to bring this to an end.’’

At a media briefing in Johannesburg on Wednesday, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the party was not anti-immigrant and did not want to stop foreign nationals from operating businesses.

When the DA launched its elections campaign in September last year, Maimane put securing the country’s borders at the top of the party’s agenda. He has subsequently denied that the DA’s campaign has fanned the flames of xenophobia.

Ramaphosa also condemned the Durban attacks, saying that they were “wrong’’ and “violate everything that our people fought for over many decades”.

“I condemn them in the strongest terms, because this is not us,’’ he said.

The Economic Freedom Fighters have been consistent in their stance against xenophobia. Leader Julius Malema earlier this week called on South Africans to stop xenophobia, and said foreigners don’t steal jobs.

“Who did this?” he said, referring to the beating up of foreigners in Durban.

“It’s another African. We are for Africa. Africa is not a continent;Africa is one country. From Morocco to Madagascar, from Cape Town to Cairo, we are one thing, we are for Africans. African unity will make us to be proud:stop the self-hate. Bring a party that loves black people, and Africans in particular,” he said.

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