Former president Kgalema Motlanthe
- Former president Kgalema Motlanthe has bemoaned
South Africa’s treatment of undocumented immigrants.
- Motlanthe said George Bizos had no citizenship and
remained stateless for 31 years after the South African government denied him
- He said there is a rush to send the oppressed back
to their troubled homes, rendering them stateless beings floating between
Former president Kgalema Motlanthe has bemoaned
South Africa’s treatment of undocumented immigrants, saying the country largely
excludes migrants from society.
While honouring the memory of renowned human rights
lawyer, advocate George Bizos SC, the former president alluded to his
dissatisfaction with how immigrants were treated by the government and South
Motlanthe was speaking at Bizos’ memorial service,
organised by the ANC. Bizos died at the age of 92 from natural causes on 9
South Africa’s undocumented migrants, economic refugees and asylum seekers look for hope and opportunity in South Africa. Yet they have been largely excluded from our society. There is a rush to send the oppressed back to their troubled homes, rendering them stateless beings floating between borders.
Motlanthe said South Africa’s treatment of
immigrants exposed fault lines in society.
“Population movement[s] are in constant motion
and the ghost of the past now set the stage for the conflict of the present.
Our response to migrants and refugees have exposed enduring and dangerous fault
lines in our societies. Migration remains central to politics, economy, society
and formation of culture on [the] African continent.
“This raises fundamental questions to our
response as a nation, the politics of identity and the ideals of humanity. What
started in the hope for a better future, these treacherous journeys to build a
new life are often met with racism, segregation, xenophobia, discrimination and
further violence. The critical question is, ‘Are we treating these migrants
differently to how Uncle George was treated?'” the former president said.
For more than a decade, South Africa has wrestled
with the identity of being xenophobic, with many foreign nationals killed,
attacked or blamed for the ailing economy.
In February, City Press reported that Home Affairs
Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said its processes for undocumented immigrants were
inadequate and this was exacerbated by budget cuts, shoddy systems and
overburdened state machinery.
Last year, home affairs spent close to R42 million
to fly undocumented immigrants to their countries.
Motlanthe said South Africa’s approach to foreign
nationals was denying the country a bounty of legal minds such as Bizos.
“However, given the opportunity to register
into education, to apply their minds, skills and creativity, become
professionals in their own right, would we not find a bounty of advocates,
specialists, contributors and builders such as Uncle George?” he said.
Bizos – famously known as former president Nelson
Mandela’s treason trial lawyer and confidant – fled Nazi-torn Greece, his
country of origin, at the tender age of 13. The family immigrated to South
Motlanthe said Bizos, who he affectionately called
‘Uncle George’, had no citizenship and remained stateless for 31 years after
the South African government refused him citizenship on the grounds that he was
not fit and proper.
Owing to his undiminished and relentless spirit,
this challenge did not stop Bizos from being a loyal contributor and builder of
South Africa, Motlanthe said.
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