Constitution shelters us all

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

By Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba

The recent attack on foreign nationals in Durban and Johannesburg go against the very ethos on which our great nation was founded and must be strongly condemned by all South Africans.

At the heart of democratic South Africa is the interaction between people of different backgrounds and nationalities. Our transition to democracy from the brutal apartheid system was an iconic testimony of peaceful co-existence to the world.

We are guided in our daily interactions by the Constitution, which provides the basis for genuine democracy, the rule of law and the enjoyment of fundamental rights.

It was inspired by the all-powerful words of the Freedom Charter, which this year marks its 60th anniversary.  The Constitution, like that of the Freedom Charter, reminds us that the rights of all people living within the country, South Africans and foreigners alike are protected.

Government is duty-bound to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution and will spare no effort to ensure safety of all citizens and foreign nationals, irrespective of their status.

It is unacceptable when people’s rights are violated by those intent on causing injury, death and damage to property and public infrastructure. Such behaviour is totally out of step with our democratic principles and will not be tolerated.

Addressing the National Assembly recently, President Jacob Zuma said: “The attacks violate all the values that South Africa embodies, especially the respect for human life, human rights, human dignity and Ubuntu. Our country stands firmly against all intolerances such as racism, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism.”

A high-level government team has been mandated by President Zuma to deal with the situation and address the underlying causes.

In the immediate term, the police are working round the clock to protect both foreign nationals and citizens.

Government is aware of concerns raised by citizens about illegal and undocumented migrants, the takeover of local shops by foreign nationals and the perceptions that foreign nationals perpetrate crime.

However, there can be no justification of any kind for the attacks against foreign nationals. Measures are being put in place to better regulate immigration into South Africa and a Border Management Agency is being established to manage all ports of entry.

Government wishes to remind citizens that not all foreign nationals are living in South Africa illegally. Many foreign nationals have legal status and abide by the country’s laws. They contribute meaningfully to the economy and the development of our country.

The perception that foreign nationals are largely responsible for crime in our country is worrying.  Such stereotypes are not just wrong but also dangerous, as they only inflame tensions.

In instances were foreigners are involved in criminal activity, we call on all citizens to provide this information to the police. We must not allow the criminals to drive a wedge between ourselves and our African brothers and sisters. In the spirit of the Freedom Charter let us embrace our fellow African in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent.

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