EARLIER this month l wrote about the proposals contained in the South African Home Affairs Green Paper on International Migration. I have received a lot of questions which l have tried to clarify to individuals who sent me emails or WhatsApp messages because of the the huge response, l thought l needed to give more clarity on the issue.
As we noted last month, South Africa is home to migrants from across the globe. The White Paper on International Migration as adopted in 1999 is not friendly to African migrants particularly those from the SADC region.
Meanwhile SA continues to try and find a a solution to its migration challenges.
Since 1994, South Africa has spent millions of rands deporting undocumented migrants , the majority who are from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Malawi and the rest of the region. Human rights groups have over the years complained about the way in which undocumented migrants have been and continue to be treated at the Lindela holding centre outside Johannesburg.
In respect to the undocumented Zimbabwean migrants, we have had cases of migrants who have fallen sick while at Lindela centre and some undocumented migrants getting stranded at the Beitbridge border post after been deported. In the majority of cases, those who get picked up in Hillbrow and elsewhere for been in the country illegally, normally make a u-turn at Beitbridge soon after deportation. While deportation will not end, the granting of work visas to low skill workers would reducing the number of undocumented Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa.
As we said last month, the Zimbabwe Special Permit will not be renewed beyond 31 December 2017. What we seek to do though,is to negotiate with government to extend the ZSP by a year to allow the SADC Work Visa to kick in , most probably in 2018. Holders of ZSP are set to qualify for the SADC Work Visa including those that are already working in South Africa but are not documented.
One criticism we have received, is our continued negotiations for Zimbabweans to continue working in South Africa. Some members of opposition parties feel that , if we stop to negotiating for the Zimbabweans working in South Africa to remain in South Africa, these workers will be forced to go register and vote out the current regime.
In our well considered view, while its critical for the Diaspora community to participate in the electoral processes back home, we believe that, opposition parties can do more to campaign for a Diaspora vote than trying to create conditions for people to be illegal migrants in South Africa.
We do not believe that, the undocumented Zimbabwean workers in South Africa will go back home even if their permits expires and in any case, a worker knows no border.
Since the Green Paper was made public, we have not had any criticism coming from South African organised labour on the issue of the SADC Work Visa and the proposed SADC Cross Border Trade Visa. Instead, COSATU and its affiliates support this proposal. This is what Lenin taught the working class , when he said , “workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose , but your chains”. COSATU slogan then goes further , ” any injury to one , is an injury to all”.
Our call therefore is for the workers of Zimbabwe who are in South Africa not to isolate themselves from the broader working class struggles.
Every worker must belong to a trade union. It is only the trade union that will protect us as migrants in South Africa. A Zimbabwean worker is free to join any trade union. Currently, we work with Migrants Workers Association of South Africa (MWASA) and Migrants Workers Union of South Africa (MIWUSA) in organising the unorganized workers particularly those in the farming community, domestic workers and other vulnerable workers.
With respect to MWASA, it act as a referral for those migrant workers who lack information with regards to joining a union.
One of the causes of Xenophobia attacks is migrant workers who isolate themselves from other workers. But when there is unity of the workers in the work place and in our communities, we will together defeat Xenophobia .
Lets join other workers in building a strong trade union movement and the party of the working class, the vanguard
It is only organised labour and the vanguard of the working class (Zimbabwe Communist Party) that will always be on the side of the migrants who are victims of greedy employers who seek to use migrants as cheap labour. –
Cde Ngqabutho Nicholas Mabhena is the Chairperson – Zimbabwe Community In South Africa.
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