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Mashaba says immigration is at ‘crisis level’

19 October 2017 - 16:29 By Penwell Dlamini
Herman Mashaba
Herman Mashaba
Image: Sunday Times

The mayor of the City of Johannesburg has called on the Department of Home Affairs to intervene and help the council deal with the issue of illegal immigrants.

In a statement released on Thursday‚ Mashaba said “illegal immigration” had reached “crisis level”.

“In the interests of inter-governmental relations as espoused in the Constitution‚ I have on numerous occasions sought an audience with the Department of Home Affairs‚ in good faith. So far‚ these attempts have been in vain. I have instructed the City’s legal team to investigate all legal options available to the City to compel the Department of Home Affairs‚ to address the issue of illegal immigration in the City of Johannesburg. I expect papers to be filed in court in the coming weeks‚” Mashaba said.

He added: “The Department of Home Affairs has a constitutional obligation to address this issue. So far‚ the department’s conduct on this matter can be described in one word - dismal.”

Mashaba recently got the go-ahead in council to take over hijacked buildings and convert them into low-cost housing in the city centre and surroundings. The city has identified 85 such buildings. Of these‚ 24 belong to the city. The plan is to start with 12 buildings.

Hijacked buildings have been a nuisance long before the Democratic Alliance took over. Tenants in these properties pay rent to “slumlords”. The rent is as high as the amount the tenants would pay for a decent low-cost housing unit. The slumlords connect water and electricity illegally and threaten the lives of their tenants if they alert the city of the criminal activity taking place in the property.

While Mashaba says his plan is to rescue these people‚ he faces a hurdle as many of the people living in hijacked buildings are undocumented foreigners. He also has to provide temporary accommodation for the tenants who vacate the buildings to be renovated.

There are currently people living in an open field next to Wembley Stadium in Turffontein who were removed from a hijacked building that caught fire in the city.

Mashaba’s views on the city’s responsibility on immigrants have attracted a lot of criticism from the ANC in Johannesburg‚ which described his stance on foreigners as simply xenophobic.

The Department of Home Affairs is expected to release a statement on this matter later today.