Violence against foreign nationals: Police/Home Affairs report with Home Affairs Deputy Minister & Small Business Development Minister

Home Affairs

28 April 2015
Chairperson: Mr B Mashile (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Document awaited: National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure Report on violence against foreign nationals

The Departments of Police, Home Affairs and Small Business Development briefed a joint meeting of the Home Affairs, Police, International Relations and Cooperation, Justice and Small Business Development Portfolio Committees about the recent attacks against foreign nationals and related small businesses. Police made reference to the underlying causes which included competition over resources; rivalry for jobs; business rivalry between foreigners and South Africans; a failure to regulate the registration of businesses at local government level; the involvement of émigré communities in crime and the incitement and spreading of misinformation on social media platforms. In the last two weeks, 2 767 people had applied for voluntary repatriation. The majority of people were from Malawi followed by Mozambique. It had also been ascertained that between 2010 and 2015, there were 333 874 over-stayers in the country. These illegal migrants were being traced. Going forward Government’s operations would focus on nine pillars which included illicit drug trafficking and contraband; undocumented migrants; human trafficking and prostitution; hijacking and illegal occupation of buildings; illegal firearms and ammunition; unlicensed businesses and the illegal occupation of land.

Members from all political parties were unanimous in their condemnation of xenophobic violence. They were equally staunch in their resolution that no violence could be condoned and that in order to move forward, a nation-wide effort was needed. Members discussed the underlying causes. The DA questioned whether the Inspectorate within the Department of Home Affairs actually had enough capacity to handle its mandate as it appeared that the lack thereof may have been one of the causes. The ANC charged that the issue of migration was much broader than the capacity of the Inspectorate. The Department acknowledged that it did not have sufficient capacity and would, through its budget, “cry” for more support for the Inspectorate, but even with capacity, the migration issue required every South African’s support and efforts.

Members raised concerns about how the media had dealt with comments made by the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini. They questioned whether his comments had been misrepresented and whether they had spurred the violence against foreign nationals. Members queried why the numbers for Nigerians, Pakistanis and Somalis who had applied for repatriation had been left out of the presentation. The Department responded that the foreign nationals who were mentioned were only the ones who had applied at the various hotspots. Questions were raised about the underlying causes and whether the attacks may have been related to land invasions or perhaps a third force. This was disputed by SAPS which said there was no evidence of a linkage.

The Department of Small Business Development also made a presentation on the work of the task team on violence associated with local and foreign owned businesses. Members were interested in why the Premiers of the provinces had not acceded to an invitation to be part of the task team. The Deputy Minister responded that it was indicative of the lack of three-sphere of government co-ordination and engagement. Members raised concerns about non-compliance of informal businesses and poor bylaw enforcement by the police.

Meeting report

The Chairperson noted that earlier in January there had been xenophobic attacks in Johannesburg. These had been attended to and had eventually subsided. The Committee took the decision that it had to learn from those incidents and consider if there were policy gaps. Attacks of a similar nature had emerged in KwaZulu-Natal and spread to Johannesburg. The Minister of Home Affairs had extended his apologies as he was participating in the Inter-Ministerial Committee; the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs was present; the Minister of Police was out of the country; and the Minister of Small Business Development was in attendance.

Department of Police and the Department of Home Affairs presentation
Head of Specialised Operations within the tactical response division, Major-General Charl Annandale, made the presentation in conjunction with Mr Modiri Matthews, Chief Director: Inspectorate in the Department of Home Affairs. The presentation (see document) outlined the scope, recent developments, root causes and government’s response.
Underlying causes were identified as competition over resources; rivalry for jobs; business rivalry between foreigners and South Africans; a failure to regulate the registration of businesses at local government level; the involvement of émigré communities in crime and the incitement and spreading of misinformation on social media platforms.

One of the responses was to activate the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) and PROVJOINTS. A Priority Committee had also been established: the Joint Operations Committee (JOCOM) met twice daily. Government’s response compromised of five pillar action steps and each involved multiple government departments and organs. The five pillars were:
1. Safety and security;
2. Humanitarian services for social development, reintegration and health services;
3. Legal and regulatory framework;
4. Communication, community outreach and mobilisation;
5. International co-operation.

In the presentation Members were given an example of the reports that were submitted to the JOCCOM on a daily basis. The reports were for the previous 24 hours. They outlined in figures the following:
a)  daily deployment to the hotspots;
b)  where there had been increased deployment to enhance visibility and/or to respond to an incident;
c)  the number of intelligence operatives deployed in the scene;
d)  the status of criminal justice system per hotspot;
e)  establishment of liaison forums and co-operation centres for migrants in conjunction with the Community Policing Forum;
f)  the enforcement of bylaws which related to trade, health and other compliance issues; and
g)  the status of the reintegration process.

Police action executed between 16 April and 23 April had resulted in:
- 29,043 patrols;
- 39 roadblocks;
- 587 premises were searched;
- There were 4,458 stop and searches;
- 11,087 vehicles were searched;
- 27,027 people were searched;
- 1,836 vehicle checkpoints; and
- Police were tracing 176 wanted suspects.

As of 27 April, 65 social workers had been deployed to three temporary shelters in KwaZulu-Natal. Repatriation statistics were outlined. The majority of people who voluntarily applied for repatriation were from Malawi, followed by Mozambique. In total 2,767 people were to be repatriated. It had also been ascertained that between 2010 and 2015, there were 333,874 over-stayers in the country. The illegal migrants were being traced.

The Department of Home Affairs provided movement statistics for March and April up until the 21st. Arrivals in March totalled 20,438 and departures were 19,777. In April arrivals were 13,533 and departures were 13,550.

The action plan to mitigate future incidences was given. Intensive crime-combating and prevention operations were planned and executed in all provinces with a focus at hotspot areas. These operations were inter-departmental and included all relevant departments. The operational focus was on:

- Illicit drug trafficking and contraband;
- Undocumented migrants;
- Human trafficking and prostitution;
- Hijacking and illegal occupation of buildings;
- Illegal firearms and ammunition;
- Defacing of historical statues and symbols;
- Unlicensed businesses;
- Management of RDP houses; and
- The illegal occupation of land.

Mr D Gumede (ANC) condemned the violent attacks. It was clear that the violence had been perpetrated by a tiny minority of criminals who used the grievances of other people in order to commit these heinous crimes. The officials were thanked for the presentation but the Departments had not provided any refugee statistics for Somalis, Nigerians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. Had they not been affected? The presentation did not appear to reflect the picture on the ground.

Mr M Hoosen (DA) said the majority the South Africans rejected what had happened as evidenced by the rallies and campaigns. It may take quite a bit of effort considering government initiatives were ongoing but was there an estimated financial cost for efforts thus far? In the document, the departments had talked about a number of root causes. He said Home Affairs had failed to make an investment in its Inspectorate. It had failed to manage the influx of illegal migrants. There had been a R118 million investment as a reactionary measure to the attacks. Why had this investment not been made prior to the attacks? The millions of rand spent on a very expensive plan could have been spent on an Inspectorate division and the attacks may have been avoided. The figure given for the number of illegal refugees was 333,000. What had the DHA been doing over the past five years? In South Africa, the thinking was to wait for an illegal refugee to leave and only then was the refugee banned from returning to the country. He asked for an indication of the number of immigrants who had applied for repatriation. He referred to the comments made by King Goodwill Zwelithini. Had these had an impact on the violence?

Ms S Nkomo (IFP) said the King’s comments had been distorted. Last week she had gone to an event to hear what he had actually said and that was that he was encouraging people to look at the challenges [of xenophobia]. She referred to page 22 and noted that no calls had been received on the toll-free number. One would have thought it would get a lot of inputs. On page 43, the Department had listed an operational focus on nine pillars. It was interesting to see that the nine were actually documented. She asked for the reasons that foreign nationals were coming into the country. The figures given by the DHA were for a period of just over a few days. If one were to look at the real figures from the beginning of time there would be millions of people. Who was legal and who was not? There was mention of the over-stayers and the illegal trafficking of drugs. Those facts had led to tensions on the ground. She asked the Major-General what the long-term plans were. The actions thus far seemed knee jerk ones. What was going to happen in the future? Deporting and repatriating also had financial implications. She also queried why some African countries had not been included in the document which detailed the number of refugees and their countries of origin.
Ms M Molebatsi (ANC) asked what the lifespan of the departmental committee was. Had any convictions been secured to date, if so, could some examples be shared? To what extent was there a link between the attacks and land claims? Were the departments satisfied with the conditions at the shelters?
Mr F Beukman (ANC) commented that it was a question of migration. The European Union had had a crisis meeting the previous week on the issue of migration. It was not just a case of the Inspectorate not doing its job; it was a broader issue. Communication was also key. The Department of Education should ensure that the future leaders of tomorrow were equipped with long-term values.
Ms T Kenye (ANC) asked the DHA if it had been aware of the large number of over-stayers? There must have been control even before the attacks. On the underlying causes on page 4, her understanding was that there was a task team on xenophobic causes. If so, could more information be provided? Was there a consolidated report? How many migrants had applied for repatriation so far? Were foreign nationals really keen to go home; how many were keen to stay in South Africa?
Ms C Pilane-Majake (ANC) said South Africa’s borders were porous and it would be good to get a clear indication of what was being done about this. South Africa had the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. There were stories of South Africa companies dismissing South African workers in favour of foreign nationals. The whole issue of migration overloaded other departments like schools and health. As long as there was no proper management of borders, how was this sustainable? People were starting to fight for resources. The report noted repatriation; but was there any indication that those people would come back to South Africa? It was important, especially when looking at xenophobia, that people feel safe. Could there not be a broader strategy of talking to the churches?
Ms N Mnisi (ANC) said the presentation had been an eye-opener. It had clearly stated that some of the people assessed were not willing to be re-integrated; they wanted to go back to their countries. How many migrants had applied for voluntary repatriation since the outbreak? She also asked why there were no details on Pakistanis, Nigerians and Somalis. What if any, had the initial findings by the inter-ministerial task team on xenophobia been. Did the DHA have any reliable indicator as to the extent of undocumented migrants in the country? Were there any specific initiatives by the DHA to improve integration of migrants into South African society?
Ms R Bhengu (ANC), Chairperson of the Small Business Development Portfolio Committee, also commented on the missing nationalities. It did not reflect what was happening on the ground. The Small Business Development Portfolio Committee had been on the ground and she urged officials to include those statistics.
She asked if the mandate of the inter-ministerial task team was limited to looking at the conditions in South Africa only or was it also looking at what was happening in other countries. If it was confined to South Africa then government was saying it was responsible for the problem. Why were foreign nationals choosing South Africa? It also related to competition in terms of skills. When one looked at the skills levels of the Chinese and Pakistanis in small businesses, then one could begin to see the levels of development.
Ms Bhengu asked that the departments look at the impact of the establishment of rural and township malls. There was no co-ownership of businesses in those malls by people from the surrounding communities. It narrowed the participation and competition of small businesses.
Ms D Raphuti (ANC) condemned the attacks. The recent spate was sparked by a labour dispute. What kind of shop was it? Was the matter referred to the Labour Department? She asked the Director-General of Home Affairs if he had thought about a designing a leaflet that could talk to communities about illegal migration and what recourse foreign nationals had. It should be in different languages so that the foreign nationals were empowered. The SA Council of Churches should also be brought on board. She also questioned why there were no details for Nigerians and Pakistanis.

Mr W Horn (DA) asked for a best estimate from the DHA on the number of illegal migrants in South Africa. He agreed that when looking at underlying causes the scope should be broadened. It had to be established why people wanted to come to South Africa. He also asked if there was a third force problem. Was there a coherent investigation into that possibility?
Mr Mashile asked if the security cluster had any information on the areas of Sunnyside (Pretoria), Point Road (Durban), Port Elizabeth Central and Bellville in Cape Town.
The Home Affairs Deputy Minister, Fatima Chohan, said she aligned herself with the Members who condemned the violence and also extended condolences to the families of those who had lost lives. She believed that unless the real cause was identified it would not be possible to prevent these incidents. She hoped that when Members said the root cause was the Inspectorate that they were not saying that this was why people resorted to violence. No violence was acceptable. Government would not tolerate any violence whether it was against illegal migrants or not. When people were attacked nobody knew their status, only police and DHA officials. A cause was that it was very easy to resort to violence in our community. The President when he met with stakeholders, what at pains to say that after the in 2008 xenophobic attacks, government did not communicate what happened to the perpetrators of the violence, to articulate the number of arrests and the sentences including life sentences that were ordered against some perpetrators. The presentation should have done that and she felt the Departments should still do so. It was a serious matter and criminal in nature.
She said the rule of law had to be adhered to and upheld by everyone. At times it seemed that people did not have an adequate understanding of the immigration laws. Sometimes people employed those who should not have been. Those people were not entitled to hold jobs in South Africa. She also referred to the land invasion case in the Western Cape. The single fundamental truth was that of the people who invaded the land; no-one knew if they were legal or illegal migrants. That step seemed to be skipped. The Department had raised it with the police that people who are arrested should be screened as a matter of routine. If that person was not convicted of the crime but found to be in the country illegally, then deportation happened at that stage. Successful migration was the business of everybody. In some countries if a hotel reservation was made by a tourist and that tourist did not arrive, the hotel were obliged to report that to the authorities.
South Africa was not the only country on the planet that had illegals. She agreed there had to be more capacity in the Inspectorate and that it had to systematically grow but Members should not for a minute think that that was a solution to all the problems. The problem was much larger than merely a lack of resources.
She said prior to 1994, South Africa was a police state. The country went from being a pariah to the apple of other countries’ eyes. It was a love affair. South Africa went from a swinging pendulum of extremes. The ideal was somewhere in the middle and that was not going to happen overnight.
The Border Management Agency (BMA) still had to be realised. There were various role players; the SA National Defence Force had been re-deployed to the borders. She did not want to understate the task that lay ahead for the BMA. Those details could be discussed separately.
Deputy Minister Chohan said the long-term strategy in terms of integration of migrant communities into South Africa was very important. It would require a great deal of leadership. Dispute mechanism in the communities had to be considered as necessary structures. She had not given it much thought before but after it had been mentioned she instinctively thought it was a good idea.
She said the looting of shops by young people who were born after 1994 was disturbing. There had to be moral regeneration and a system of values. People had to understand that a small business meant hard work and dedication. The notion that a person was going to get rich overnight had to come to an end. A person got there through sheer grit and hard work; those were the values that had to be taught. Religious leaders had a role to play.
She said people did not know each other and they were brought up with mistrust, misunderstandings and ill-feeling towards each other. There were some places where foreign nationals gathered to live with people from their own country. For example, some, like Somalis, did not drink alcohol and were therefore never at a local tavern so they did not know their South African neighbours and vice versa. The Department tried to do outreach events but it did not have a budget or a mandate. When it did however, it tried to bring all the South African citizens as well as migrants together.
A church created a platform for this to happen. She used an example of a gathering at the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto on Women’s Day last year. South African and foreign nationals were invited to attend in their traditional clothing. On arrival they gathered in the pockets from where they were from. It was only when a question was asked for them to explain the cultural significance of their dress did people start to engage. The room was suddenly animated and eventually there were displays of traditional dances and explanations of foods. At the end, it was hard to tell who was a South African and who was not. Those were the kinds of initiatives that were needed. Instead of cake sale why not have a traditional food day?
Another interesting idea raised was about local languages. That was a barrier. Could government not develop centres in every province where the majority language of that region was taught for free to anybody? Platforms and leadership was required.
She said a big area that had to be dealt with was asylum seekers. In 2009/10 the number of asylum applications received was over 200,000 per annum. Since then, the Department had tried to make the processing system more efficient. It could now deal with applications within three months. The time gap for processing had led to some abuse. The Department found that the majority of people who applied for asylum were not refugees but were merely needing a work permit. Through the White Paper, to be produced by end of the financial year, the issue of quota permits from other countries would be clearer. There was a huge number of unskilled people in the country and this happened in illegal and undocumented ways. There were now about 70,000 applications per annum which was a significant reduction in just a period of four to five years. She said perhaps they needed to look at offering basic shelter, food and clothing to general asylum seekers as opposed to issuing work permits out of asylum centres.
Concluding, she said South Africans had to come to terms with the fact that migration affected and concerned everyone. It did not help just to have the capacity, national effort was required.
Home Affairs Director-General, Mr Mkuseli Apleni ,said there was a saying that prevention was better than cure but the way the Department was funded,  it functioned on cure is better than prevention. The Department had 10,000 staff members. Of this, 700 were in the inspectorate. There were 52 million people in the country. SAPS had 200,000 members. The City of London had about 3 600 inspectors in that city compared to the 700 that South Africa has as a country. During the budget process, the Department would be making a cry for this.
Mr Apleni said that the Department had come up with a thread of changes in the immigration laws to curb the inflow of illegal immigrants but these changes had not been understood. The Department wanted people to apply in person and for children to travel with unabridged birth certificates. There was an outcry when the Department declared an over-stayer as an undesirable. Immigration had a lot of push and pull factors. There needed to be a balance. The Department was also busy implementing in its strategic plan, a finger print system at the ports of entry. The BMA would also be responsible for ports of entry and the borderline as envisaged by Cabinet. Laws could be tightened but if the borders were porous then it would not solve the problem. In the interim, in the two years before the BMA would be operational, there would be pilot projects. The Home Affairs Minister during his budget speech would announce what would be done about the borders. One measure was that the SANDF had been re-deployed along the borders.
Referring to the issue of illegal immigration, Mr Apleni said, by its definition ‘illegal’, if the Department knew about the number it would not call term them illegal. In the long term, the Minister already had about four roundtables and the Department was gearing up to have a colloquium for the whole of society to describe their challenges and what policy perspectives should be put in place; to look at a paradigm shift on international migration.
Mr Apleni responded to Ms Bhengu’s comments. South Africa was part of the world. It could not just close its borders. The environment that South Africa operated in had to be understood, there was SADC, the continent and the rest of world. In South Africa currently there was an abuse by asylum seekers, because the immigration laws were more on the skilled side of permits. A regulatory framework was needed to deal with economic and unskilled migrants. That policy was being worked on.
He said very few people had taken up the offer of voluntary repatriation. Only 2700, while the rest did not want to go back. The Department just had to ensure that they were not in the country illegally.
The Department had taken up the proposal of the pamphlet. It was working with the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster but Home Affairs resources had to be looked at.
He referred questions about why some nationalities had not been included in the presentation to Mr Modiri Matthews, the Chief Director of the Inspectorate.
Mr Mashile said he felt it was only a technical issue and that it should not involve issues of a political nature.
Mr Modiri Matthews, the Chief Director of the Inspectorate, replied the report reflected only the nationals that the Department was dealing with at the shelters with regards to deportation. They were mostly from Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. As yet there had not been any documentation on Nigerians and other nationals.
Maj-Gen Annandale responded to the Deputy Minister’s comment about the lack of information about what happened to perpetrators of the 2008 violence. He said in 2008, following the violence against foreign nationals, there were 79 cases involving 132 individuals. Collectively the convicted were sentenced to 140 years imprisonment. Of these, one person was sentenced to life, one to 25 years and another to 15 years. The average sentence was three to six years. For robbery and housebreaking it was up to nine years and for intimidation it was up to five years. In terms of convictions for the recent period, there had been 309 arrests so far. It was a bit too soon to expect convictions at this early stage. SAPS detectives and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) were working closely with the Department of Justice and the National Prosecuting Authority and the tabs would be kept on the number of convictions.
Maj-Gen Annandale said the lifespan of the joint departmental operation was dependent on the situation. The IMC would ensure that the situation was totally stabilised and that it had implemented all of its operations. There was a target date for the middle of May but things could change. Total stabilisation may be achieved earlier than that. In terms of the continuation of Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Migration; typically there was the Priority Committee that gave effect to the task team reports from the IMC. That Committee met depending on the nature of the report. There were weekly meetings. The National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure did work together with the IMC; it received its marching orders from the IMC.
In terms of repatriation, he said only the nationalities which had applied had been included in the report. However there was analysis received from respective hotspots in terms of the nationalities in the communities. There were also complainants who were from other nationalities that were not mentioned.
Major-General Annandale took note of the suggestion of a pamphlet.
The reason there were no calls to the hotline reflected in the presentation was because it was for a 24-hour period and no specific calls were received. The structure would make the presence of the number more public.
On the operations in Point Road, Sunnyside, Hillbrow, and Bellville; there was definite action planned and some had already been undertaken.
He noted comments on the underlying causes and the further analysis that might be needed and it was part of the mandate of the IMC. Regarding land invasions and attacks on foreigners, there were no specific links. Similarly, there was no link following an investigation into a third force involvement. The intelligence community, the detective and the Hawks, were looking into the many cases of incitement to violence but preliminarily it looked like cases of criminality.
Mr Mashile summarised the first part of the meeting. The message was clear that the violence was condemned and that issues of migration affected the whole country and they had to be attended to correctly. South Africans also had to adhere to the values of humanity and accommodation. There was also support for the interventions that government was taking to deal with the problems. The internal and external causes had to be looked at. The DHA was doing a lot to ensure that the regime of government immigration was being done correctly.
Minister of Small Business Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, took Members through the Department’s presentation on the work of its task team (see document). Ms Zulu agreed with all present in condemning the violence. The challenge was not the responsibility of any one department or entity. It had to be collectively addressed. It was also not just a South African but an African problem because the issue of migration could not be dealt with in isolation. The Department had its first baptism of fire in January following the death of 14-year old Siphiwe Mahori. When this happened, the Department was participating in Parliament’s oversight visits to KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng. It allowed the Department an opportunity to understand the nature of small businesses and co-operatives. It immediately looked at the establishment of an inter-departmental and inter-spherical government-wide task team. The task team was attended by five national Departments, one national agency; Gauteng’s Economic Development Provincial Department, the Gauteng SAPS and the City of Joburg Metropolitan Municipality. Other invited departments neither responded to the invitation or duly sent appointed senior officials to the task team. In addition, all the country’s Premiers did not respond. This showed recognition that the involvement of all the spheres of government was missing. While the Department was still finalising its report, the recent attacks happened. It was yet to be presented to Parliament but the report had given to the IMC.

Ms Zulu outlined the work-in-progress emergent strategy. Reported root causes were:
1. competition over business resources;
2. failure to regulate informal and small businesses at local government level;
3. absence of government-wide cooperation and coordination on informal and small businesses initiatives;
4. rivalry over employment opportunities; and
5. community disengagement and the advent of social ills.

Ms Zulu presented the emerging responses (see document) but highlighted that under point two it had been her experience that in malls, there were regulations on the number of stores which operated in a specific sector, for example, a limit on the number of shops that could sell sweets, chocolates and cigarettes. There was no such limitation in practice for small businesses that operated on the streets. Formally there were, but informally this was not the case. Municipalities had to profile, review and re-align bylaws towards meeting the emerging market realities and objectives. Under point three, central coordination of ongoing community level campaigns targeted at informal and small business activities was important as a response. Rivalry over employment opportunities had been raised by communities as a major challenge and in order to address community disengagement, civic and community-based organisations had to be strengthened.
The five pillars of the National Informal Business Upliftment Strategy (NIBUS) were:
- creating an enabling legal and regulatory framework;
- enterprise development through financial and non-financial support;
- strengthening of inter-governmental relations co-ordination;
- stakeholder and partnership development; and
- information and knowledge management towards the development of informal business intelligence.

The Department had presented four key interventions to the Inter-Ministerial Committee:
• Intervention One was aimed at ensuring that informal businesses complied with the law and the developing of an informal business registry. It also focused on instituting mechanisms through which business intelligence through the public sector could be collected, analysed and translated into policy.
•Intervention Two was targeted at consolidating, stimulating and getting existing support towards skilling and financing entrepreneurs.
•Intervention Three dealt with creating a singular communication platform on issues of informal businesses and the accompanying violence; and informing the public of the various government initiatives related to the development of informal businesses.
•Intervention four targeted the profiling of the relevant role players in the informal traders’ sector as well as employing those role players to the benefit of the informal sector.
Mr Mashile felt the report was supportive of the previous presentation. He noted that some of the local business people were running aground and renting out their spaces to foreign nationals.
Mr Hoosen said on one hand the Department was providing some support to small businesses including those foreign-owned, and on the other hand, the Department of Home Affairs had legislation in place that foreign businesses had to make an investment of up to R5 million. Could the Department clarify what it meant by support? Were business owners screened to check if they were legally in the country?
Ms Nkomo asked if the Department had follow-up on why the Premiers had not attended the task force meeting. Provinces were critical and the support of the Premiers was a serious matter. On the issue of rivalry over employment opportunities, had this been taken up and referenced to labour laws? She asked the Minister what her plans were for rolling out the skilling and financing of entrepreneurs. Small businesses were putting a sizeable amount into the Gross Domestic Product.
Mr A Figlan (DA) also condemned violent protests of any nature. The Department was thanked for doing its research on the previous causes of the violence. He said there had to be more engagement with law enforcement. People were infringing the laws and police and the metro were not acting. Sometimes, when they did, they faced opposition from the local councillor. People were living in shops and disposing of their refuse wherever they pleased. He also touched on the lack of the response by the Premiers to the task team invitation. The Department had been trying to constructively engage. A lack of engagement meant in the long run, there would be problems. If national government said something and provinces ignored it, this was a problem. He voiced concern over the source of finance for immigrants. There seemed to be refugees with a lot of money, who could easily afford R500 000 or pay rent for a whole year. Other refugees could not.
Ms Molebatsi asked how compliant were small businesses owned by foreign nationals such as spaza shops.
Ms Raphuti said she was concerned about illegal marketing of small businesses. This was evident in the Sowetan newspaper advertisements. Could the media assist by refusing to advertise illegal or unethical businesses? Big foreign businesses like some Chinese shops did not accept bank cards. They only wanted cash and claimed it was because the banks were overcharging them. Was it probably the case, though, that they were operating illegally?
Ms Mnisi asked if there were any challenges pertaining to the registration of foreign-owned businesses. Was there a need for specific legislation or other such measures?
Mr Mashile asked how the SA Local Government Association could be approached to solve compliance with bylaws. How were undocumented businesses dealt with? Some businesses only had a licence to sell a certain product but sold more than that. What taxation control was there?
Minister Zulu replied that registration and the regulation of bylaws by law enforcement was not happening. This was one of the reasons why the Department of Small Business Development had been formed. It gave government the impetus to give a voice to small businesses. One challenge was up-scaling the support, but this could not be done unless bylaws were adhered to. Strong cooperation and relations between all three spheres of government was needed. The Business Licensing Bill had been drafted by the Department of Trade and Industry and there was still discussion as to whether this would be taken over by her Department.
She acknowledged that there was an issue with illegal and immoral businesses and the Member was correct about the advertisements in the Sowetan. The media had to be engaged. Sometimes she felt that the responsibility of building the new nation had tended to be left to government. The media might be making money, but she did not think it every occurred to them that they needed to take a step back and see the impact. SALGA was involved. In terms of financial and non-financial support, there was not any specific programme.
Minister Zulu there was tax compliance for small businesses, but some did not meet the threshold as they did not make enough money. It was still important that they be registered and documented though. Compliance also needed to be adhered to by the person who owned the business and the person who was renting it; that was where competition and conflict started.
Minister Zulu said the Department was writing to the Premiers to follow up. It was also important to find out how the recent attacks started and to hear what action law enforcement was going to take. Big business could not run away and not take responsibility for these things, she said, inferring that it was the actions of big business that led to the outbreak of the attack. Those businesses wanted to make a profit by employing cheaper labour that was not unionised.
In terms of skilling and financing of entrepreneurs, this was now more possible because people had that mindset. Transversal agreements would help and the process of developing SMMEs would happen here. There were lots of people who claimed to do skills development, but the results were not seen on the ground. The sourcing of finance was a critical issue that was raised repeatedly.
Reality had to be dealt with, not perceptions. The perception of many people in South African communities was that foreign nationals were selling expired products; products no-one had heard of before and who were also able to pay for a full year’s rent. Non-compliance was the job of law enforcement but the Department did have a responsibility to raise those issues with the relevant authorities. The role of Treasury in conjunction with the police was important. Members were warned against a situation where the country was awash with money and where people were cleaning their money and using it to fund dangerous activities.
Minister Zulu said foreign nationals could also share their experiences and processes with local business owners. This did not mean giving away their business secrets but the task team had identified a willingness on the part of the foreign nationals to share their processes because they understood why Black South Africans had found themselves in the situation they were in.
Mr Apleni said South Africans had to participate in the economy of the country and a space had to be opened for them. Government also needed to look at how it could assist foreign nationals who could not afford the R5 million investment.
Mr Mashile asked for concluding remarks from the Chairpersons of the Small Business Development and Police Portfolio Committees.
Ms R Bhengu, Small Business Development Portfolio Committee Chairperson, said she did not believe South Africans were xenophobic. Africans were friendly to each other and they shared common experiences of the struggle against oppression. The portraying of South Africans as xenophobic people must be condemned. South Africa had accepted it was part of the global village and of the continent. The Constitution provided for the protection of all, whether illegally in the country or not. In condemning the violence however, one should not be narrow minded and only focus on the violence, but look beyond. Look at the root causes of the frustrations and marginalisation raised by South Africans. An impression should not be created that the problems of small locally owned businesses trumped those of foreign nationals. She drew on the words of Nelson Mandela who said: “Rights come with responsibilities”. In South Africa people seemed to know more about their rights than their responsibilities. People had the right to protest but they did not have the right to attack.

Ms Bhengu also took note of the media’s involvement in the portrayal of the speech by King Goodwill Zwelithini. The media had a right to report on issues and events and it also had a responsibility to think about the possible consequences. Reporters were South Africans first and then journalists. She had not heard what the King had said but she had heard in the media that it was he that had caused the violence. An editor could have seen the possible consequences of spreading that message. Everyone had rights and it was not only the responsibility of government to build the country. In terms of the statistics, those figures had to be re-looked at, as they did not match what was on the ground. The Committee was busy processing its oversight report which looked at the state of small business and the co-existence of small businesses owned by foreigners and locals. This would allow the Committee to implement interventions of the Department of Small Business Development and ensure that support services provided by government addressed the needs of the stakeholders.
Mr F Beukman, Police Portfolio Committee Chairperson, said Section 205 of the Constitution stated the object of the police was to prevent, combat, investigate crime, to maintain public order; to protect and secure the inhabitants of the Republic and to uphold and enforce the law. What came out of public hearings with the National Commissioner of Police the year prior, was the need for intelligence driven early warning systems to detect threats. The Committee welcomed the full activation of the NATJOINTS, PROVJOINTS and the coordinating committee. He referred to page 5 of the first presentation which stated that intelligence services would ensure that perpetrators of violence were brought to book. He appealed for an integrated approach to policing at a station and cluster level to ensure a proper threat assessment was made and reported and escalated to the relevant operational sectors. Secondly, there should be a long term and medium term education strategy to deal with xenophobic violence. The next day the Secretariat of Police would brief the Police Portfolio Committee on the campaign against afrophobia. Questions which had emerged from the briefing today would be raised at that meeting. Proactive steps also needed to be taken and his Committee would soon table its report on its visit to the Lebombo/Mozambique border for debate in the National Assembly to ensure appropriate responses especially in relation to policy. The role of Community Policing Forums in their interactions with foreign communities was also to ensure that the rule of law was adhered to at all times. Going forward, from the side of the police, there was a suggestion that in the upcoming months there should be a collective visit by the relevant parliamentary committees to the hotspots. This was to evaluate the implementation of the plans and also to get feedback from the communities.

In summary, Mr Mashile said that today’s interactions should inform future discussions. It was important to communicate with one voice that there was a big NO to violence. Social cohesion must be encouraged.

The meeting was adjourned.

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