Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Border Vigilantes
Under the cosh at work at the moment so not too much time to post, but thought I'd like to comment on this morning's Sky News special report on the border farmers who are rounding up Zimbabwean illegal immigrants. I thought the report gave prominence to an issue which is becoming more and more of a problem.

I'm not a supporter of vigilantism by any means. The public should, in my opinion, not be involved in law-enforcement beyond reporting to authorities. It's an incredibly slippery slope from vigilantism to outright lawlessness and anarchy. However, the Government is showing a remarkably laissez-faire attitude towards illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe.

Our borders are porous at best, and it offers little support for the border populations who bear the brunt of immigrants who in many cases are desperate, and resort to petty theft, poaching and other crimes. If there was a more formal methodology of incorporating these immigrants into society, and Government took responsibility for their feeding and care, it would be a different story. However, the lack of any effort to integrate or support these immigrants, along with Government's wish to push these duties on the public in the region, creates largely adverse conditions for both the immigrants and the border populations.

Illegal immigration needs an immediate solution. It's an issue that's only going to escalate, and with it, so will tensions in the region. There are already large xenophobic attitudes amongst poorer communities in the urban metropolitan areas, and it's not far-fetched to see xenophobia fanned by the flames of immigrant crime lead to conflict between illegal immigrants and well-armed farmers in the border region.

Government needs to focus on providing formalised solutions for integration or repatriation, instead of merely turning a blind eye and letting the local communities sort it out.