The SACC is an instrument and servant of its members.

20 January 2022
From the desk of the General Secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana

The South African Council of Churches (SACC) is calling for a National Dialogue on foreign nationals working in South Africa, who have once again come under the societal microscope. This call comes in the wake of other members of society who are publicly calling for the removal of all foreign nationals from South Africa ‘with immediate effect’. “The challenge of addressing the South African attitude to Africans from other countries is a perennial one. The problems of relating to foreign nationals have a direct impact on the communities in which we live, worship and where we
have our livelihoods; and we urgently need a national multi-stakeholder and solution-seeking Indaba”, said Bishop Mpumlwana General Secretary of the SACC.

The murmurings about foreign nationals ‘stealing the jobs’ earmarked for local nationals have been growing in mass for years, albeit at varying volumes. In recent months, we’ve seen the transport sector buckling under the weight of the strain of local drivers’ disgruntlement at the employment of foreign nationals over them. It was not long ago that the N3 was blockaded by protesting drivers, creating a ripple effect to the broader economy.

Today, there are voice notes doing the rounds giving deadlines for the removal of mainly Africans from elsewhere in the continent; and in Johannesburg there is the much more organised “Operation Dudula”; and more recently, the EFF put the spotlight on the hospitality industry, making visits to restaurants to establish the nationalities and ratios of their staff compliments.

The government appears to lack the capacity to deal with this matter in a sustainable way – and this has continued to plague communities, resulting in much bitterness, fear, anxiety and conflict.

Given the spread of organised groups taking the initiative to accost foreign nationals, whether legal or illegal, as the distinction is hard to verify in the heat of the moment, the SACC is deeply concerned that it would take one misplaced word or act by one or more persons, to tip these murmurings to violence and, God-forbid – death.

It is for this reason that the SACC proposes a national Indaba to include all sectors that have an interest in this matter, including the representative bodies of foreign nationals; for all to look into various issues concerning foreign nationals in the country.

These should include the whole question of immigration management and the refugee status regime. It should include the consideration of any research made on the activities attributable to foreign nationals – their presumed role in regular crime and especially organised and syndicated crime like in drugs and human trafficking; their contribution to the national economy and the GDP; their contribution to education, including as university professors; the labour and employment situation regarding foreign nationals – this being one of the triggering points in communities in a high unemployment environment.

“We need to look at the difference between poor and middle-class immigrants, legal or not; is it a class thing? Are foreigners objectionable when they are poor and in townships, and not so when they are middle class in suburbs, or are white from, say the Czech Republic?” added Bishop Mpumlwana. He said that it is important to ask what causes the backlog with documentation processes for foreign nationals, and what the role of corruption could be at the borders or in the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) house alloca9on that inordinately favours illegal foreigners.

Furthermore, considering the large numbers from neighbouring countries like Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, how does the South African economy relate to the regional and con9nental economy, both historically and in the present context? What might be some of the solu9ons – at community level, at municipal level, sectorally as in types of businesses such as informal commerce, trucking of goods; government and public policy – immigration management, regulation of business enterprises;categorisation even of faith-based businesses. What might be some of the solutions?

“We have a responsibility to ourselves to foster a culture of dialogue that will result in meaningful solutions, which is why this proposed Indaba is a national priority,” said Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana. He acknowledged that our tumultuous past had resulted in much deprivation, and an imbalanced competition for jobs, commodities and housing, but stated that the forced and violent removal of foreign nationals would not a peaceful South Africa make.

“We must appeal to all our communities to desist from what ends up as vigilante action in the absence of effective law enforcement. We saw the effect of people taking the law into their own hands in the fatal vigilante actions of Phoenix; whatever the cause, and however well intentioned, nothing stops popular action against a section of the population from becoming ugly and resulting in serious injury and death,” Mpumlwana added.

The National Indaba on Foreign Nationals will aim to create a fair playing field, and address every area of concern for all affected sectors and communities; and seek solutions, where the rules that apply for one can be applied to all, for the benefit of South Africa and all who live in it.


Media enquiries:
Khuthalani Khumalo
SACC Communications Consultant
South African Council of Churches
Tel: 084 074 1285 | Email: