ANC booed at xenophobic panel

On Thursday, the Immigration Bodies of South Africa (IBSA) brought together leaders and representatives of various political parties to give their views on xenophobia and its causes, ahead of the May 8 polls.

Hosted by Brandon Tshabangu, the chairperson of IBSA, the panel featured eight political parties and four continental organisations. Each was given a 15-minute time slot to discuss their organisations views on recent attacks on foreign nationals and to offer solutions.

African Content Movement (ACM) leader Hlaudi Motsoeneng was the first representative to take the podium and strongly condemned xenophobia, but insisted that South African citizens must be preferred over foreign nationals when it comes to employment.

“We cannot look after our neighbours children before we look after our children,” Motsoeneng said.

He attributed the xenophobic attacks to foreign nationals getting jobs ahead of locals because of their alleged willingness to work for low wages.

The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and the Black First Land First (BLF) both referred to xenophobia as Afrophobia.

The PAC identified African identity and the economy as the problem, offering a solution of developing Africa without borders. However, BLF was more robust in its approach to the problem of xenophobia. BLF president Andile Mngxitama emphasised that the real foreigners in South Africa are white people.

He added that white people put African people in a position to kill each other for jobs. He charged that white people fire locals, hire foreign nationals and pay them “starvation wages”. Mngxitama recommended that the only way forward is if every immigrant in South Africa is documented for, and to ensure employers are limited to having 30% of foreign nationals in their employ.

Other parties and organisations drew similar conclusions, attributing xenophobic attacks to white people and imploring Africans to unite.

However, United Democratic Movement vice president Nqabayomzi Kwankwa moved away from this notion, saying that xenophobia has always been a problem in Africa using the example of the 1983 mass deportation of Ghanians from Nigeria.

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He said that it is South Africa’s duty to now take charge and stop xenophobic behaviour.

All leaders after Moetsoeneng were applauded for their submissions. That was until the ANC representative, Humphrey Mdumzeli Zondelele Mmemezi, took to the podium.

Mmemezi opened by lauding President Cyril Ramaphosa on his visit to KwaZulu-Natal, which was affected by floods this week. However, opposition supporters did not come to witness a campaign speech.

IBSA chairperson Tshabangu intervened to remind Mmemezi that he was at the podium to discuss xenophobia. The ANC member would then ask for everyone present to wait for him to get to his point, but he was eventually booed off.

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Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia is a member of the Mail & Guardian's online team.
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