#PutSouthAfricansFirst dangerously fuelling xenophobia, warns Human Rights Watch

#PutSouthAfricansFirst dangerously fuelling xenophobia, warns Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch has joined the debate on the #PutSouthAfricansFirst Movement. The movement is made up of different organisations that believe that foreigners contribute to South Africa’s social ills like drugs, human trafficking and child kidnappings. They accuse immigrants of taking jobs that should be occupied by locals.

The Human Rights Watch says while their idea of being put first is noble, it is dangerously fuelling xenophobia.

Speaking on VOW FM’s Breaking Ground programme, South African Director at Human Rights Watch, Dewa Mavhinga, said in principle – it is important to have people desiring to see citizens’ rights being advanced. “The problem is when you look at the context in South Africa, in terms of  the xenophobia in the past, the complete disregard of the right of non-nationals or migrants, disregard for the Constitution or South Africa and the disregard for the value of human life, “ says Mavhinga. 

Members of the Put South Africans First Movement marched to the Gauteng Premier’s office in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, on Friday. Among their demands was for government to evict foreign nationals from the city. They claim the migrants occupy the most space in South Africa’s economic hub and the first step towards fixing this would be to deport them back to their native land.

However, Mavhinga believes there is another way of getting the country right. “It is not true that Johannesburg is occupied by 90 or 95% by migrants.  These are false stats to scapegoat the nationals. There is a way in which South Africans can have a win-win situation in which it can ensure that the rights of non-nationals are protected but at the same time fully advancing the cause of economic development and supporting citizens because those nationals in South Africa with the rights to work contribute meaningfully to the South African economy,” he says.

“South Africa should also not forget where it comes from, from the apartheid era when it was also helped to be where it is today and if it seeks to be an island, things should be done in the right way,” he concluded.

South Africa needs healing

Voice It In Action (VIIA) is part of the organisations that are behind the call for government to put the interests of South Africans before those of migrants.

The President of the organisation, Kgothatso Moloto, believes this will ensure that the locals get the jobs, services and dignity they deserve, which he says, will help the nation heal from the trauma of apartheid.

Moloto spoke to Breaking Ground ahead of their march to the Gauteng Premier’s office on Friday – to reclaim the city of Johannesburg. They urged the Premier to enforce the law so that South Africans can inhabit the city.

“80-95% of our city is occupied by the foreign nationals, most of the services of the country that are good are happening in the CBD so the reality is most South Africans that need services will not get them.  Access to work, education, health and decent housing they will not get any of this. When reclaiming South Africa we are saying put South Africans first in all these spaces especially in our cities where the heart of the economic hub of South Africa is,” said Moloto.

Moloto believes that the country can start developing if South Africans are put first in all opportunities.

“South Africa is under developing, 20 years down the line when looking at townships; they rent any different from the apartheid era, this is all because there are no resources that are going into these communities through strategic modes coming in into the country. South Africans are not getting the best yet the migrants are getting the best before the South Africans, which is also highly unfair. We are claiming South Africa so that she can be at the place where she has to be at right now with Africa and her people,” adds Moloto.

Moloto says the pain caused by apartheid still haunts many South Africans and the wounds are still fresh.

“South Africa and her people come from a very difficult time from the apartheid time, the effect from then is still felt even today, so South Africa needs to heal from a lot of things. Now a new challenge has been presented by not putting South Africans first, these spams across various departmental requirements from the South African government and to South Africa and her people from interment opportunities, educational opportunities, hospitals and public services even the RDPs thus this causes an imbalance to the country on its own,” he says. – Report by Mmangaliso Khumalo