SOUTH Africa will exercise its right to determine who comes and resides into its shores cognisant of its obligations to the region, Home Affairs minister Melusi Gigaba said at the weekend.
Gigaba was welcoming guests to the ongoing Sadc Conference on International Migration, also attended by Zimbabwean Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo.
With millions of Zimbabweans having escaped economic, political and social upheaval to seek refuge in the neighbouring country, Chombo told the conference that his government was willing to work with its counterparts in the region to stem the tide of illegal migration.
“South Africa must not look at regional migration as a burden, but as a development opportunity in the context of regional integration, intra-African trade and a dynamic region and continent. Working together, we can and will manage international migration for the development of our country, region and continent,” Gigaba said.
He added: “Politically, a country’s ability to determine who may enter and exit its territory, and on what terms, is a core aspect of national sovereignty, which all of the 200 or so countries in the international State system retain.”
Gigaba said his country was ready to work with its neighbours to control migration, as South Africa had become the centre of migration in the sub-region.
“South Africa has become a major destination, transit and entry point to the continent and the world. The country has become a preferred destination for investors. This has led to major conglomerates in the manufacturing and service industries, establishing their regional offices and/or assembly plants in South Africa,” Gigaba added.
Chombo weighed in: “Zimbabwe is also ready to work with its neighbour for a one-stop border post and stop border jumpers.”
Zimbabweans working in South Africa remain on edge, as a special dispensation permit granted in 2014 is set to expire at the end of the year, with no clear indication as to what will happen next.
South Africa, according to Gigaba, is developing a fresh migration policy for the next two decades.
“The draft policy balances the primary imperatives of economic development, national security, international and constitutional obligations as well as the vision articulated in the Freedom Charter’s injunctions that we should as a country seek to live in peace and friendship with our neighbours,” Gigaba said.
Tensions remain high between South Africans and immigrants in that country, amid threats of a possible outbreak of xenophobia that in the last few years has claimed the lives of dozens of foreigners, including Zimbabweans.
Gigaba noted that regional co-operation would help in stemming the tide of migration.