By Mashudu Netsianda
Disgruntled Zimbabweans among other foreigners under the banner of the African Diaspora Forum (ADF) marched to the office of Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba in protest over his alleged xenophobic utterances.
Mr Mashaba drew the ire of many when he recently blamed crime in Johannesburg on foreigners, saying they are all illegal immigrants.
He said all foreigners from African countries should leave the city because they were criminals.
ADF on Monday hit out at Mr Mashaba, saying his remarks were likely to reignite a fresh wave of xenophobic violence.
They said Mr Mashaba’s comments were anti-migrants and reckless and urged the South Africa government to intervene.
ADF, which represents 21 African countries, is a non-profit making organisation that was formed soon after the 2008 xenophobic attacks.
“Many migrants are struggling to get their permits,” said Ivorian community leader Mr Marc Gbaffou on behalf of the ADF outside the Johannesburg Civic Centre, where he handed over a petition to the member of the mayoral committee for community development, Councillor Nonhlanhla Sifumba.
“What we know is that when somebody is a visitor in your country, and after five years you are not able to provide him with proper documentation, you must tell yourself that your system is faulty and you must give yourself time to fix that system. You don’t use your faulty system and blame it on your visitor,” said Gbaffou.
Mr Mashaba was not in the office and Clr Sifumba received the petition on his behalf.
The forum said migrants contribute positively to the economic growth of Johannesburg and South Africa as a country.
“Not all migrants are criminals. Crime doesn’t have a nationality. Stop stereotyping. If a mayor catches a criminal, he or she must be taken to the responsible authorities. The media is not the platform or place for parading criminals,” said the forum in its petition.
“You know, when people know the borders are open, people will cross them. In other countries people are saying they will build a wall. We don’t expect that; what we expect South Africa to do is to be able to control its borders because it’s not the duty of the visitor to control the border. Our mothers and sisters are selling mealie meal on the streets here, they just need to be managed by the mayor; they don’t want to be treated as criminals, because they are not,” read part of the ADF petition.
The Zimbabwean Government has since engaged South African authorities over Mr Mashaba’s remarks.
Zimbabwe’s Consul-General, Batiraishe Henry Mukonoweshuro said the Embassy raised a red flag over Mr Mashaba’s “reckless” utterances.
Mr Mashaba at the beginning of the month stated in his 100 days in office address that illegal foreigners living in Johannesburg must be treated as criminals since they had come to South Africa illegally and they should leave the city.
South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, in response, condemned the mayor’s remarks, saying his ministry was disturbed by Mr Mashaba’s utterances, which are likely to fan xenophobia.
The Minister said the government viewed the comments as unfortunate. Mr Gigaba last week met the mayor and discussed the government’s policy and interventions in relation to the management of international migration.
Mr Mashaba however, stuck to his guns, saying he has no regrets about his remarks.
During the meeting, Mr Gigaba defended the immigrants, saying they contributed meaningfully to the country’s economy.
Efforts to contact the chairperson of Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, Mr Ngqabutho Mabhena were fruitless as he was unreachable on his mobile. The Chronicle