The recent migration issues at the Beitbridge border presented an opportunity to educate (South) Africans about the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), where the African Union (AU) member countries agreed to forming a single bloc where they can all benefit from legal unrestricted movement of people and goods.
The (AU) passport was expected to be rolled out in member countries during 2020, but the schedule of most things was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. I was reminded about this AU passport after EFF Leader advised migrants from neighbouring SADC countries to find “Creative ways” to illegally enter South Africa in order to counter the inefficiencies delaying them at the borders, and by implication to challenge South African sovereign policies and processes. This was a strange utterance from an elected parliamentarian, it was made more strange by a call (from the same mouth) for South Africans to not allow visitors into their homes because of Covid-19 regulations. I wondered why the same logic was not used to arrive at not asking Migrants to break laws of sovereign states. Malema was mostly responding to contradictions of closing local SADC borders but allowing the airports to remain open, accusing the government of behaving in a manner “that pleases whiteness and Europeans”, “The disease did not come through Zimbabwe or Lesotho. It came from Italy. It is white people who brought the disease here…” Malema said.
The single AU passport, itself a necessary creative way , will be a crucial element for the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement which went live on the 1st January 2021. The agreement allows for the free movement of people and goods across the African continent under the free movement protocol (you need to read the document at some point, it involves you). The AU’s protocol defines free movement as “…the right to enter and exit member states and move freely within them, subject to the states’ laws and procedures…”. It regards the freedom to travel or move goods across the continent as likely to boost the economic integration of Africa. Appropriate communication to this extent is necessary to citizens as stakeholders in any country, if unnecessary Xenophobic demonstrations are to be avoided.
Migration is a concept as old as the human species. The nomadic lifestyles of pasturalists seeking fresh cud and the travelling to unknown and far away places to entertain the explorative nature of humans has been part of our history and nature. Other more “artificial” inclinations of humankind such as colonialism, capitalism and increased globalisation have influenced the hows and why’s various peoples have had the need to migrate. South Africa has occasionally had flair ups of unrests labelled as “xenophobic violence” but that appears to have a class bias, targeting only “non-white” foreigners. It was in Alexandra township that “operation Buyelekhaya” first surfaced in 1995, a year after the first democratically elected governance was afforded to the majority black nation state. Since then, occasional xenophobic violence erupts sporadically throughout the townships, attacking Somali refugee and other economic migrants. Leaders, even self-proclaimed fighters of economic freedom need to be responsible with how issues of migration are handled, especially when the justification for both the attacks and the illegal immigration into south Africa are mostly due to economic reasons, surrounding the phrase “…our Jobs…”
The recent chaotic scenes witnessed at the borders that connect South Africa to neighbouring countries happened in the year South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa is the outgoing head of the African Union, after a really productive year, with the finalised release of the long awaited single AU passport that was idealised in 2016 happening now… It is unfortunate this widely publicised border mismanagement by South Africa Home affairs, leading to bad PR for our processes but an opportunity to learn from what happened and avoid it at all costs.
I would deem it beneficial for countries to fast track these AU passports, which Malema is basically issuing by illegitimate decree. There always remains the responsibility to avoid desperate migrant opportunists be turned to criminality, especially by a clarion call to illegal “creativity” endorsed by contradictory but necessary opposite politicians who should be fighting for the economic freedom of the constituents they represent within these borders. Is it me or have our lives become increasingly complex?