Immigration has long been a hot-button political issue in South Africa.
Government’s humanitarian approach to foreign nationals created a distortion of what the real issue was, while trying to be politically correct and overlooking immigration laws.
Lobby group Southern African Liaison Office (Salo) has condemned Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi’s decision to terminate the Zimbabwe exemption permit (ZEP), saying government was leading the country into self-isolation.
However, according to legal analyst advocate Modidima Mannya, SA’s biggest fault line was ignoring the value of immigration laws – whose primary objective is to protect the country’s sovereignty first and then to protect citizens.
“The main objective of immigration laws is to regulate and control the movement of people in and out of a country,” Mannya said.
“Immigration laws in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe are firm [on this].”
He said SA’s humanitarian approach has overlooked the temporary nature of new immigration regulations.
But in a critique of SA’s immigration policies, Salo said the move was against the principles of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
“In recent months, the political and social climate within the republic has witnessed increasing levels of populist and nationalistic rhetoric, reminiscent of similar movements in the United States of America and Europe,” it said.
“Although South Africa has not made calls to build a wall, the cancellation of the Zimbabwe exemption permits and the launch of an armed Border Management Authority” sends a new signal.
African politics expert Dr Nicole Beardsworth said SA’s new response lacked morality, though locals’ concerns about poverty cannot be downplayed either.
Meanwhile, Zanu PF Sandton branch chairperson Advocate Simba Chitando agreed with Salo that to end the ZEP will isolate South Africa from the region.