We need to learn to co-exist

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

By Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula

We live in a globally connected world where local actions can reverberate across the globe. No country is an island and we are all interconnected in more ways than one.  Therefore, since 1994, South Africa has actively sought to strengthen partnerships and ties with countries in Africa.

These partnerships have a profound effect on our daily lives often without us even thinking about it.  When you turn on the tap to draw a bath, chances are that you are using water from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. Much of our electricity is also sourced from the Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique.  This demonstrates our interdependencies as Africans for our countries to succeed and develop.

The shameful attacks on foreign nationals that sought to plunge our country into anarchy took place far away from Lesotho and Mozambique, yet they reverberated in those nations and far beyond.

It is precisely for this reason that we dare not let the actions of a few define us as a nation. What was intended to pull our nation down must be used to strengthen our resolve to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society which respects human dignity and rights of all people.

We have proved as a nation that we are resilient and our defeat of the apartheid system shows that. Today South Africa is counted among the most diverse and enchanting countries in the world. The past few weeks have shown that the overwhelming majority of South Africans stand for peace, the rule of law and fundamental rights, in contrast to the few who are bent on perpetuating acts of violence.

This week we have begun the healing process and are working to restore harmony within our communities. President Jacob Zuma has also convened stakeholders to discuss migration.            

South Africa will next month join the rest of the continent in celebrating Africa Month. In the spirit of Africa Month let us take hands with our fellow Africans in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent to encourage greater social cohesion, nation building and African unity.

Our destiny is intrinsically linked to that of the rest of the Africa. We are already working with a number of African countries to grow business, trade and investment.

In the energy sector we access gas from neighbouring countries which is used in local industries and households, and sustains thousands of jobs. We are also a major importer of crude oil from African counties.

The Great Inga Hydropower Scheme in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will produce electricity for a number of countries within the SADC region including South Africa.

Our long-standing relationship with neighbouring countries allows us to procure electricity and water required for our power stations. These relationships have enabled us to electrify more than 6 million new households since 1994.

In light of above, the government appeals to all South Africans to remember that united we stand and can achieve so much more; we are all Africans. Furthermore, we are aware of concerns raised by citizens about illegal migrants and their alleged take-over of local businesses. President Zuma has mandated a high-level government team to address the matter.

The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster together with the Ministers of Social Development, Trade and Industry and Small Business Development will engage affected communities, organisations representing foreigners, business and non-governmental organisations to attend to their concerns.

Moreover, measures are being put in place to better regulate immigration into South Africa and a Border Management Agency has been established to manage all ports of entry.  

We have also transferred 350 members of the SANDF to the Department of Home Affairs to boost the capacity of immigration officers at our border posts. Our military personnel have been deployed along the border in seven provinces to prevent border crime and illegal border crossings.

This week the President himself has met with stakeholders to discuss the country's migration policy and how various sectors can work with government to promote orderly migration and good relations between citizens and foreigners.

The President intends to build a lasting partnership with stakeholders in the country to better manage migration and ensure that the shameful attacks on foreigners do not ever again occur and attempt to destroy our hard-won gain as a country.

We must never allow perceptions to become our reality. Many foreigners have legal status and abide by the country’s laws. They contribute meaningfully to the economy and the development of our country.

Throughout the liberation struggle, our fellow African brothers and sisters took a stand and supported our fight against apartheid. They provide much-needed shelter to our leaders and activists. Their support played an important role in our attainment of freedom we enjoy today. Their help will remain forever etched in our memories.

Moreover, the criminal actions by a handful of perpetrators are in no way a reflection of the true state of relations between foreigners living and working within our communities.

To render these criminal elements powerless, we must collectively address misconceptions and stereotypes about foreign nationals or other cultural groups to ensure that such incidents don’t happen again.

The government cannot do it alone and needs all sectors of our society. Let us all use our various platforms to address stereotypes about foreigners and educate South Africans about the need to co-exist and live in harmony with our fellow brothers and sisters from other countries.