Home affairs… but what about immigrants?

Minister Gigaba seems to be creating a home affairs that delivers super-optimised services to South Africans while rendering dismally inefficient services to foreigners.

A few days ago I had the honour of having breakfast with Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba, at the Cape Town Press Club. The minister is a stylish gentleman, articulate, with sharp intellectual acuity. While I engaged with him, he looked into the distance beyond us, obviously with a specific vision in mind. He certainly has flair and is well seasoned, having occupied the positions of deputy home affairs minister, minister of public enterprises, and now minister of home affairs.

Gigaba extolled the department of home affairs as a “modern, digital, secure custodian of national identity, responding to the present and future needs and circumstances – run by professionals, operating in a highly-secured environment to protect the precious records of the lives of our people.”

While the minister’s “re-imagined” home affairs is laudable, it also reflects a disturbing myopia. The minister’s address was extraordinary in its silence on a policy that recognises the essential importance of foreigners and their contribution to making South Africa a better and more competitive country. The minister’s emphasis on border security and the establishment of the border management agency is the touchstone of a closed South Africa, a fortress against the influx of skills and foreign direct investment.

It is now crystal clear that Minister Gigaba is an isolationist, bent on the creation of a department of home affairs for South Africans, not for immigrants. Foreigners are now anathema to South Africa’s closed border policy. In a modern, open world, the minister falls on his own sword.