Throughout Herman Mashaba’s term in office, he has been accused of fuelling xenophobia by making unconstitutional statements about foreign people living in the city, saying 80% of people living in hijacked buildings are foreign nationals. But Africa Check's Kate Wilkinson says these stats are unfounded.
Mashaba has been quoted widely saying that 'foreigners‚ whether legal or illegal‚ are not the responsibility of the city' and that '[the city of Johannesburg] will only provide accommodation exclusively to South Africans'.
The Mayor sat down with Eusebius McKaiser to discuss his stance on foreign nationals living in the city of Johannesburg.
Mashaba says, what happened on 1 December 2016 during the first 100 days of his administration was he made public pronouncements that he wants to turn the inner city of Johannesburg into a construction site.
We are sitting with over 300 000 of our people living in conditions that for me as a person, it hits me every time I look into the situation. But I said however, we are sitting with a massive problem of criminality including having lots of undocumented people in our city and this is not a competency of the city of Johannesburg, it is a competency of national government.— Herman Mashaba, City of Johannesburg Mayor
Mashaba says the Home affairs Department has failed to carry out its responsibilities in Johannesburg.
The only way we can turn the city around for our law-abiding citizens, whether foreign or national, we have to ensure that we clean the city of criminality.— Herman Mashaba, City of Johannesburg Mayor
He adds that he then received calls that he said foreign nationals are criminals.
Criminality has nothing to do with colour, it has nothing to do with race or anything like that. Criminals are criminals whether foreign or national.— Herman Mashaba, City of Johannesburg Mayor
However, you can imagine running a city with so many undocumented people it becomes really very difficult.— Herman Mashaba, City of Johannesburg Mayor
The mayor was asked to define his definition of what xenophobia is.
Xenophobia is someone who hates people from other countries, someone who obviously is very specific to say that South Africa cannot really welcome or doesn't want people from other countries.— Herman Mashaba, City of Johannesburg Mayor
In one of the clips played, the mayor is quoted as saying a minimum of 80% of these people are foreign nationals and when he was asked where he got that number from?
Well, fortunate enough we have got the stats of this, if you really want our team that does these rates, we can give from day one when I took over.— Herman Mashaba, City of Johannesburg Mayor
Africa Check's Kate Wilkinson also weighed in on the conversation about the mayor's stance. And she says last year they did a fact check of the mayor's claim.
I think it is important to distinguish that Mayor Mashaba has made this claim about 80% in a couple of different contexts.— Kate Wilkinson, Africa Check
And the context in which we fact-checked, was the claim in which he said 80% of inner-city residents were undocumented foreigners.— Kate Wilkinson, Africa Check
And in this case, he wasn't just referring to hijacked buildings.— Kate Wilkinson, Africa Check
She adds that their first step in their fact-checking process is to get in touch with the person who made the claim as they always give them the benefit of the doubt that they have the information to support the claim that they are making.
When we got in touch with the mayor's office, we were told that he was referring particularly to 10 wards in the inner city and that his experience of hijacked buildings had informed his claim that about or around 80% of the people in those buildings were undocumented foreign nationals.— Kate Wilkinson, Africa Check
She says the methodology for verifying those claims is the same irrespective of who has made those claims and they look for the most recent and reliable information.
Our first stop was actually, the Gauteng city region of Observatory because every two years they conduct a quality of life survey in the province.— Kate Wilkinson, Africa Check
And in their most recent survey which was conducted between 2015 and 2016, they found that in the inner city wards that the mayor was referring to 26.2 % of residents had migrated to Gauteng from another country.— Kate Wilkinson, Africa Check
And then our second stop was actually quite interesting considering what the mayor said, was a report that was released by the City of Joburg's social development department and this report looked specifically at rates of five buildings in Doornfontein in July 2017.— Kate Wilkinson, Africa Check
She says on Africa Check's investigation, if they look at the inner city as a whole, there is no data that supports the mayors claim.
If you look at Stats SA if you look at surveys conducted by the Gauteng city region of observatory, there is no data that shows that 80% of inner-city residents are foreign nationals.— Kate Wilkinson, Africa Check
Listen below to the full interview with the Mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba...
Following the interview with Mashaba on the Eusebius McKaiser Show, the mayor's office sent the following response:
Letter of Response by
Executive Mayor for the City of Johannesburg, Cllr Herman Mashaba
Setting the Record Straight
I thank you for the interview today on illegal immigration. I got into politics, in large part, to enforce the idea that elected representatives must be accountable.
This accountability must be for our actions and inactions, our words and our ideas. This is why it is called Public Office.
In the debate, perhaps a couple of points were missed that need to be set straight.
My remarks about 80% undocumented foreigners in 2017 related not to the Inner City as a whole, but to the hijacked buildings that were being raided on a daily basis.
This figure was not an academic study or a census and was never claimed to be either of these things.
The fact is that this figure arose as an estimate from the practical exercise of conducting raids in these hijacked buildings. As such, I make space for the fact that this figure is open to different assessments.
Part of the crisis relating to undocumented immigrants precisely relates to the inability to quantify the scale of the situation. Other challenges arise from the City conducting its work in an environment where this situation is unmeasurable.
Whatever ones take on the percentage of undocumented foreigners in these hijacked buildings, no rational person can say it is not a serious crisis.
Establishing the rule of law in our City is an absolute requirement for the multi-party government. Lawlessness has to be dealt with to ensure we live in a society that is stable, safe and conducive to prosperity.
The laws of our Country, as it pertains to immigration, are clear and have been set out long before I came into office. They make a distinction between someone who qualifies as an asylum seeker and someone who resides in our Country illegally.
No self-respecting Country in the world can claim this title unless they have borders and processes to be adhered to when entering them.
My repeated position on the matter is that I want the people of Africa and the World to come to Johannesburg. I want them to visit our City, work in our City and grow our City. However there must be 2 non-negotiable requirements, people must 1) enter our Country legally and 2) when here, obey our laws.
- The truth is that Home Affairs is failing South Africa in very real ways. Our borders are porous and Home Affairs doesn’t do nearly enough to document people already in our Country. Can you believe that Home Affairs does not even have an Asylum Facility in Johannesburg?
I believe it is regrettable that such an important topic can be discussed and the entire focus becomes about unpicking a figure that was never projected as being beyond scrutiny.
The real debate which I suspect South Africans would like to have heard should have been about the magnitude of the crisis, how Home Affairs is failing dismally and how this impacts governments and people.
Liberalism, of which I am an avid believer, is often mistakenly taken to mean that we embrace anything, good or bad. This is patently wrong. Liberalism is about the rights of our Country being enshrined and protected at the level of the individual. This includes the rule of law and living in a Country where governments have responsibilities to protect these rights. One such responsibility involves proper control of who is in our Country.
When you are ready to have the debate most South Africans believe necessary, I would be delighted to back in your studio.
I would like to assure you, I appreciate robust debate because it is the only way we can grapple with the challenges we face in our Country.
Cllr Herman Mashaba
City of Johannesburg