Cablegate: South Africa Reaffirms Progressive Stance On

Published: Thu 1 Oct 2009 02:41 PM
DE RUEHSA #1983/01 2741441
P 011441Z OCT 09
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: A. 08 PRETORIA 1549
1. (SBU) In a September 21 keynote speech to a regional
intergovernmental workshop on migration, Department of Home
Affairs (DHA) Deputy Minister Malusi Gigaba forcefully
reiterated the SAG's commitment to freedom of movement.
Nations must shift their paradigms on migration, he said, to
see it as a source of economic development to be embraced not
resisted. Border controls should aim to document movement,
protect vulnerable migrants, and facilitate labor exchanges
beneficial to both source and destination countries.
Gigaba's address affirmed that the former Mbeki
administration's liberal stance on migration was set to
continue under President Zuma, despite xenophobic risks and
other political pressures. He welcomed the suggestion of
meetings between the Embassy and himself and/or Minister
Dlamini-Zuma. End Summary.
Migration as a Plus (not Minus)
2. (U) Gigaba urged his regional neighbors to make a
paradigm shift, to see migration not as a "nuisance" but
rather as a positive engine of development. While
globalization had facilitated mobility for skilled and
affluent migrants, he said, the movement of poor and
low-skilled workers was restricted and often risky. This was
because the migration debate was "littered with
misconceptions" -- e.g. that migrants cause crime and drain
resources, or that mobility could even be stemmed. Migration
was seen by both developing and developed countries as a
problem to be combated, despite what he said was the fact
that most countries were built by migrants, and migration
remained an essential element of nation-building. He added
that migration should be viewed in light of its mutual
benefits to both source and destination countries:
remittances were a crucial road out of poverty for the
former, while young labor was vital to the declining
populations of the latter. Integration of growing numbers of
migrants was not only inevitable, but also beneficial to
Strategic Management (not Restrictions)
3. (U) The Deputy Minister argued that human capital
mobility should be proactively managed, not combated or
ignored. Since labor movement was "a fact," and a growing
trend "from which no country is immune," the challenge was to
harness it proactively and strategically for socio-economic
development. In public policy, migration should be
integrated explicitly into development strategies and
planning frameworks, he said. The right approach would
balance skilled professionals and working class laborers.
Regional efforts could help mitigate brain-drain effects,
which plagued Southern African countries (particularly in the
health and education sectors) -- lest emigration of skilled
workers perpetuate global economic disparities between first
and third worlds. Gigaba called for government initiatives
to draw professionals from the overseas diaspora back home,
to contribute to the development of their countries of origin.
Regularization -- to Ensure Protection
4. (U) Moving from development rationales to a human rights
perspective, Gigaba said the goal of immigration policy was
to regularize cross-border movement, in order to minimize
Qto regularize cross-border movement, in order to minimize
illegal crossings where migrants were vulnerable to harm.
"Migration is about people, and... the protection of the
human rights of all migrants is a political and ethical
imperative." Gigaba explicitly extended this duty to both
regular and irregular migrants, "including those regarded as
illegal." Echoing the constant refrain of refugee advocacy
groups, he warned that migration management must not be
"singularly obsessed with security," saying that only shared
development could guarantee long-term regional stability.
Border control (which "does not mean the same thing as
PRETORIA 00001983 002 OF 003
immigration control") should aim to document movement,
protect migrants, and enable mutually beneficial labor
exchange, the latter with decent wages and other safeguards.
Gigaba added that special attention was due to female
migrants, who fell prey to abuses like trafficking.
Interagency, Multi-level, and Multilateral
5. (U) The Deputy Minister stressed that migration
management required collaboration across government agencies,
at all levels, and outreach to non-governmental actors.
Integration of migrants was a matter that cut across myriad
public services, and hence it could not be considered the
sole responsibility of the Ministries of Home Affairs,
Interior, or Immigration. Moreover, all tiers of government
-- not just national or provincial, but especially the local
level where service delivery occurred -- must treat migrants
fairly. Officials must further collaborate with private
sector businesses, labor unions, and NGOs, and encourage
public dialogue. To support policy with fact, governments
must work with research institutions to generate credible
data and statistics. Finally, beyond national borders,
countries must forge bilateral agreements such as visa
waivers and regional initiatives such as the Free Movement
Protocol of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Zimbabwe Policy: Easing "Push" Factors
6. (SBU) Turning to migration's impact on foreign policy,
Gigaba addressed the sensitive subject of Zimbabwe, whose
exodus of migrants over the last year has been the dominant
migration effect on neighboring states. With diplomatic
phrasing, Gigaba said that reducing irregular migration would
depend on addressing the "root causes of migration and forced
displacements" which are "push factors." In this context, he
urged support for Zimbabwe's Global Political Agreement and
the lifting of international sanctions. Gigaba lamented that
many undocumented Zimbabwean migrants fell victim to criminal
gangs during unsafe border crossings, and to labor abuses in
destination countries. (Comment: many comments during the
workshop implicitly referred to troubles in Zimbabwe, but
this was a rare occasion when the country was mentioned by
name. For their part, Zimbabwe's delegates made the surreal
suggestion during Q that the key push factor not to be
overlooked was climate change. End Comment.)
Follow-up: Minister-Ambassador Meetings
7. (U) In an offline conversation with poloff, the Deputy
Minister welcomed the prospect of top-level meetings between
Home Affairs and the Embassy. Minister Nkosazana
Dlamini-Zuma (previously Minister of Foreign Affairs), he
said, had voiced her interest in greater interaction with the
diplomatic community. Gigaba suggested that the U.S.
consider two meetings, one with the Minister and one with
himself, since their portfolios were very different -- she
focused on broad policies, and he on migration and
counter-xenophobia. When poloff noted that Ambassador Gips
would be credentialed on the same day with his counterparts
from the U.K. and Canada, giving rise to the possibility of a
joint meeting, Gigaba was receptive to the idea of a
collective session. (Note: the same day, Duncan Breen of the
Qcollective session. (Note: the same day, Duncan Breen of the
NGO Consortium for Refugees and Migrants (CORMSA) phoned to
say Gigaba was organizing an interagency working group of SAG
deputy ministers on migrant-related issues, and Breen would
suggest that the USG be invited to observe. End Note.)
Doors Still Open (Against the Odds)
8. (SBU) COMMENT: This was a landmark address, clearly and
unstintingly in favor of human mobility at a time when the
SAG's progressive immigration policies are under pressure.
Gigaba has made similar remarks before, most notably in the
sensitive aftermath of mid-2008 xenophobic violence (ref A).
The reaffirmation of SAG openness to migrants was especially
significant, however, at an intergovernmental forum of the
planners who shape neighbor states' policies,
interdependently with South Africa. The speech conveys
continuity from the Mbeki to Zuma administrations (as does
Gigaba himself, who remained in office under a change of
PRETORIA 00001983 003 OF 003
Minister). That continuity is despite a shift from Mbeki's
pan-African orientation to Zuma's more domestic focus, and
despite 2008's xenophobic attacks which could have prompted
an anti-immigrant turn. Finally, Home Affairs sources have
warned that some in the ruling ANC favor a more restrictive
policy, and some SADC countries are indeed becoming more
migrant-intolerant (ref B) -- so the SAG's commitment to
migration has overcome both domestic political resistance and
regional conservative trends. As a member of the ANC's
National Executive Committee (NEC), Gigaba carries the
authority of the core of the governing party.
9. (SBU) COMMENT CONTINUED: Sterling policies emanating from
the ministry are a good start. As Gigaba acknowledges,
however, South Africa still has much work to do to make those
policies a reality on the ground. Operating-level SAG
officers continue to mistreat migrants, and little has been
done to combat xenophobic prejudices (ref C). End Comment.
Post Script: Top-Level Praise from UNHCR
10. (U) On September 29, Minister Dlamini-Zuma addressed the
UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)' annual Executive
Committee meeting in Geneva, where High Commissioner Antonio
Guterres praised South Africa's migration policies as being
among the best in the world.
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media