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EDITORIAL | Politicians flirting with xenophobia are playing a ...

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EDITORIAL | Politicians flirting with xenophobia are playing a deadly game

Leaders should be dealing with high unemployment and poverty rates instead of targeting foreign nationals

Editorial

Imagine sitting in the international departures lounge at the airport with your boss, waiting to catch a plane for a business trip. Two policemen approach, demanding to search your luggage for drugs because your boss is a foreign national. This is how a traumatic 12 days started for Cynthia Mobuhle Khedama, who ended up being detained in filthy police cells after a wrongful arrest. At the time, she was the victim of identity theft and her identity number was wrongly linked to a fraud accused. She tried to explain this to the police who pounced on her, but they sought all sorts of reasons to disregard her, including resorting to xenophobic remarks against her boss and boyfriend. She has now won a damages claim of R1m against police, with the judge saying he would have made the amount higher had she asked for more.

What makes Khedama’s story even more disturbing is the fact that the xenophobic slurs came from people in positions of authority — who abused that authority to cause damage to an innocent citizen. Though one of the officers denied using any derogatory terms, Durban high court judge Graham Lopes accepted Khedama’s version of events. His scathing judgment should be widely celebrated, just as the department of employment and labour should be applauded for taking a stand against EFF leader Julius Malema, who targeted foreign nationals this week.

Malema’s move to “inspect” restaurants at Mall of Africa in Midrand, Gauteng, to check the ratio between South Africans and foreign national workers was uncalled for. Asked by Sunday Times Daily if it was a legal act, labour lawyer Dunstan Farrell described it as “discriminatory, racist and xenophobic”. The labour department’s swift response should also be applauded. Labour minister Thulas Nxesi made it very clear the EFF was out of line. “The premise of our legislation is predicated upon protecting all employees despite their nationality as long as employment relationship can be identified. The same rights accorded to a SA employee, such rights apply to foreign national employees,” he said...

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