Migration a continental problem – SA minister

Migration a continental problem – SA minister

South Africa needs much more support from the African continent if it is to deal with the problems of mass migration, according to a senior government minister.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, Jeff Radebe, chair of South Africa’s Intra-Ministerial committee on migration – a body convened after a recent deadly bout of xenophobic violence in South Africa– said that the country was dependent on African support to bring continuous flows under control.

“We need to find an African solution to this challenge – South Africa cannot solve this on our own… if there is no stability in the continent, people will move out. If there is no economic development, people will move out,” he said.  

Radebe said that heads of state who seek to extend term limits are directly contributing to mass migration across Africa, indirectly referring to the fallout from Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid to extend his presidency in Burundi.   

“After the xenophobic attacks [in South Africa], President Zuma organised a meeting with all stakeholders, with churches, business people, and civil society – they told the president that in the Great Lakes region there are moves by countries there to extend the terms of office of heads of state, and when that happens people will move from those countries to other countries. And as sure as the sun rises in the east, it happened. 100,000 have fled Burundi.”

As well as calling for a long-term continental solution through mechanisms including the African Union’s Agenda 2063, Radebe said that the government, advised by his committee, is planning to develop a new migration policy that learns from both the recent bout of violence and the experiences of other countries.  

However, the African National Congress’ policy approach was criticised by Ann Bernstein, executive director of the Centre for Development and Enterprise, who said that the government should launch an independent, judge-led inquiry to investigate the role of politicians, the police and criminals in the the recent bout of xenophobic violence.  

“We need much better policy and we need to get our act together. We need to manage migration in all its dimension much more effectively. I think South Africa has struggled to manage these issues both at the skilled and unskilled levels. In 2008, when some 60 people died, it’s important to note that we called for a commission of inquiry so that South Africa can know what exactly happened – this didn’t occur,” she said.  

David Thomas

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Written by David Thomas

David Thomas is deputy editor at African Business Magazine. He has also been published in the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist and South Africa's Cape Times.

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