The spike in violence against foreign nationals in parts of Gauteng in recent weeks was debated in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Some Members of Parliament fingered government failure in safeguarding the country's borders and blamed the situation on undocumented immigrants. The defence minister insisted the soon to be implemented Border Management Authority bill will strengthen border security.
To discuss Tuesday's debate, Bongani Bingwa speaks to the African Centre for Migration Studies postdoctoral fellow Dr Rebecca Walker.
Walker says there are only 3.6 million foreign nationals living in South Africa and the argument that the country is under siege due to poor borders and illegal migration is not supported by the data.
It is impossible that 7% of the population could be responsible for all of the problems we are currently facing in the country and even in Gauteng, only 7-8% of the province is made up of none nationals.— Dr Rebecca Walker, Postdoctoral fellow - African Centre for Migration Studies
She says migrant numbers are not the problem but rather lack of government leadership.
It is about deep routed disappointment and anger around a lack of jobs and services which then gets deflected on to foreign nationals who are a very easy scapegoat.— Dr Rebecca Walker, Postdoctoral fellow - African Centre for Migration Studies
Walker says politicians cannot blame the crisis in the South African health systems on foreign nationals.
The health system is in crisis anyway. It is down to planning, under-resourcing and even in areas where we don't have migrants, the health care system is crumbling.— Dr Rebecca Walker, Postdoctoral fellow - African Centre for Migration Studies
She says South Africans need to shift the narrative away from that which argues foreign nationals are taking away from South Africans and rather look at the opportunities they bring to the country.
When you have such high levels of inequality and poverty and you add foreign nationals into this competitive pool, you get everyone trying to get what is available. To suggest that foreign nationals are grabbing jobs from South Africans is not supported by the research.— Dr Rebecca Walker, Postdoctoral fellow - African Centre for Migration Studies
Listen below to the full interview: