Since the 1994 elections, South Africa has seen a rising level of xenophobia. As in many other countries, immigrants have been blamed for a rise in violent crime, drug dealing and a rise in drug abuse, unemployment, and other social ills. Immigrants from African countries have been the target of attacks, often because they are perceived as being in direct competition with South Africans for jobs or services. In addition, African immigrants are often the target of random violence and robbery, as criminals perceive them as easy targets because they are unlikely to go to the police. The police and Home Affairs officials have shared this antagonism toward foreigners. The generally negative attitude toward foreigners encourages and condones abuses by police, army, and Home Affairs officials not only against those suspected of being undocumented migrants, but also against non-South Africans who are lawfully in the country, who can expect little or no help from the police when they themselves are victims of crime, including violent assault and theft.

Xenophobic Statements by Officials

As in many western countries, some politicians in South Africa are exploiting the issue of undocumented migration for their own political gain, increasing levels of xenophobia by making unfounded and explosive statements about the cost of undocumented migration and its effects on various social services and crime. The mainstream debate around illegal immigration in South Africa, focusing on the economic impact and the impact on crime of undocumented migration, has been alarmist and ill-informed.

One of the most common alarmist claims made by politicians is that the high cost of undocumented migration is endangering the transformation process currently taking place in South Africa. As pointed out earlier, Minister of Home Affairs Buthelezi stated in his first speech to the parliament that South Africa could forget about its reconstruction and development program if it did not stop the flow of migrants.(1) In his 1997 budget speech, Minister Buthelezi returned to this familiar refrain:

With an illegal population estimated at between 2.5 million and 5 million, it is obvious that the socio-economic resources of the country, which are under severe strain as it is, are further being burdened by the presence of illegal aliens. The cost implication becomes even clearer when one makes a calculation suggesting that if every illegal costs our infrastructure, say 1000 rands [U.S. $ 200] per annum, then multiplied with whatever number you wish, it becomes obvious that the cost becomes billions of rands per year.(2)

Reacting to a questionable study released in January 1998 by the Human Sciences Research Council which estimated the cost of undocumented migration at 2.75 billion rands [U.S. $ 550 million] per year, the Freedom Front and the National Party called upon the government to take stronger steps to combat undocumented migration. National Party spokesperson Daryl Swanepoel stated that "the cost [of undocumented migration] cannot be justified given the enormous pressure ... to supply our own citizens with basic services."(3) The Freedom Front said it would support "all measures" in the fight against undocumented migration.(4) The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has called upon the government to take stronger steps against undocumented migrants since September 1994, threatening to organize marches and take "physical action" if the government fails to respond to the perceived crisis.(5)

Officials often make statements blaming rising levels of immigration for the rise in crime. During a recent newspaper interview, Defence Minister Joe Modise closely linked the issue of undocumented migration to the rise in crime in South Africa:

As for crime, the army is helping the police get rid of crime and violence in the country. However, what can we do? We have one million illegal immigrants in our country who commit crimes and who are mistaken by some people for South African citizens. That is the real problem. We have adopted a strict policy and have banned illegal immigration in order to combat the criminals coming from neighboring states so that we can round up the criminals residing in South Africa.(6)

National Party spokesperson on home affairs Frik van Deventer has similarly linked the issues of immigration and crime, claiming that Nigerians have entered the country "in droves" since 1994 and that "eighty percent of all suspects appearing in court in Johannesburg in connection with drugs are Nigerians."(7) He blamed the African National Congress' accommodation of old solidarity friends as one of the most important causes for the rise in undocumented migration to South Africa, and he urged a more hard-line approach to the problem of undocumented migration:

Without stricter policies and a sincere political will of the ANC government to resolve these problems, South Africa will lose the drug war and become home to criminal elements and thousands of illegal immigrants.(8)

The National Party has also blamed undocumented migrants for taking jobs away from South Africans, exacerbating poverty, and spreading diseases in South Africa.(9)

Police officials have expressed similar views of the involvement of Nigerians in drug trading, with one police captain stating in a press interview that he believed that as many as 90 percent of Nigerians who were in South Africa seeking asylum status were involved in the drug trade.(10) These statements are reinforced by constant police claims and press reports which include the number of undocumented migrants arrested in the overall arrest figures for "crime sweeps." By constantly linking the issue of undocumented migration to rising crime in South Africa--the latter a topic of extreme public concern--the link between these two separate issues has now become accepted as a matter of course, despite the lack of clear evidence linking undocumented migration to rising crime rates. In turn, this unfounded link between crime and migration increases resentment against migrants, and increases the potential for violent attacks against them, as shown by attacks on foreign hawkers described below. Where migrants are responsible for crime, they should be prosecuted according to law; most of those coming to South Africa are not involved in crime, but attacks on them are legitimized by statements of this type.

Not all South African politicians have joined in verbal attacks on undocumented migrants. Mpumalanga premier Matthews Phosa, for example, has spoken out against narrow nationalism, "which could easily lead to some Bantustan [homeland] mentality, undermine national unity and cohesion, or lead to some form of xenophobia."(11) Speaking on the reasons for refugee flows to South Africa, Phosa has pointed out the destructive impact of apartheid on the region's economies, arguing that "any solution to the problem of refugees, ignoring this reality, will be superficial and will not stand a chance of succeeding."(12)

Available research suggests that xenophobia among the South African public is indeed very high. A study co-authored by the Human Sciences Research Council and the Institute for Security Studies reported that 80 percent of South Africans supported stronger government efforts in controlling undocumented migration into South Africa.(13) Support for forced repatriation was found among 65 percent of respondents, while 73 percent of respondents were in favor of employer sanctions for employers who hired undocumented migrants.(14) White South Africans were found to be most hostile to migrants, with 93 percent expressing negative attitudes, compared to only 53 percent of black South Africans.(15) In May 1995, the Southern African Bishops' Conference released an extensive report on the perceptions of migrants and refugees in South Africa. The report concluded:

There is no doubt that there is a very high level of xenophobia in our country.... The impression is given that illegal immigrants are flooding the country and the nation's social fabric is threatened by illegals fleeing economic, political, and social upheavals in their countries. When the questions of prostitution, money laundering, arms and drug trafficking are raised, more times than not they are linked to the question of illegal immigrants.... One of the main problems is that a variety of people have been lumped together under the title of illegal immigrants, and the whole situation of demonising immigrants is feeding the xenophobia phenomenon.(16)

In particular, the report expressed concern that the unrealizable expectations of the population, bolstered by the high promises of the ANC's Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP) would soon translate into heightened xenophobia as foreigners would be blamed for the slow progress of socio-economic reform: "Indeed, this has already begun: it is not uncommon for lower-income South Africans to identify foreigners as the chief obstacle to realising the goals of the RDP."(17)

Attacks Against Foreign Hawkers

Frustrated with what they perceive as the government's inability to address the "flood" of migrants effectively, an increasing number of civil groups are suggesting and implementing their own solutions to the "problem." Some groups, such as Micro Business Against Crime and the Illegal Foreigners Action Group, have called for a boycott of businesses employing undocumented migrants and have argued that South Africans should stop buying products from foreign street traders.(18) Concerned about increasing lawlessness and tensions within local communities, the Transvaal Agricultural Union has encouraged its members to stop hiring undocumented migrants and to report known undocumented migrants to the police for deportation.(19) In a disturbing development, a group calling itself the Unemployed People of South Africa (UPSA) has threatened to take the law into its own hands and physically remove migrants from South Africa if the government fails to deport them.(20)

One of the areas of greatest tension between South Africans and foreigners has been in the informal trading sector, known as hawking. Many asylum-seekers and refugees are unable to find employment in the formal sector because of high unemployment levels, their temporary status, and because of employer prejudices, and resort to selling goods--ranging from potato chips and sodas to curios, clothes, and watches--on the street. In doing so, they sometimes enter into direct competition with locals who are either selling the same goods or would like to sell those goods. The conflict is heightened by the fact that South Africans themselves have only been allowed to engage in the informal hawking trade since apartheid restrictions were lifted in 1991.(21)

Some non-South African hawkers feel that they played an important role in developing the hawking sector in South Africa by bringing in skills they picked up in their home country, and they complain that they are now being pushed out by South African opportunists who would like to appropriate the business sectors that foreign traders developed over the years. A well-established and successful Nigerian trader in Cape Town explained how local hawkers were trying to push him and other foreign traders out of business:

At first, we were very poor but then people started noticing that we were making money. We were progressing and having cars and such things. The local people started using our techniques, and many people wanted to become traders. We developed this thing, and now the local people want to kick us out. They say the influx of foreigners is taking their jobs, but we taught them how to do business.... The locals come to tell us, "this is our country, you foreigners are taking over our country." They write us letters saying we have flooded their markets. The newcomer citizen hawkers tell us that we have to stop selling the things they sell, but we have been here for years.(22)

Whatever the competitive advantages are of foreign traders in terms of hawking experience, the local traders are increasingly reverting to a different weapon to increase their market share vis-a-vis the foreign traders: violence and other forms of intimidation.

Since at least 1994, the African Chamber of Hawkers and Independent Businessmen (ACHIB) has led a vocal campaign against foreign hawkers. ACHIB believes that 40 percent of all hawkers are foreigners.(23) ACHIB blames foreigners for rising crime, overpopulation, and falling wages, and accuses foreign hawkers of selling stolen, rotten, and expired goods.(24) ACHIB has organized a series of anti-foreigner meetings and marches, and it has successfully negotiated a "neighborhood watch" program with the police, in which ACHIB-affiliated hawkers place suspected undocumented migrants under community arrest and hand them over to the police. Considering the official anti-foreigner stance of ACHIB, Human Rights Watch feels that this cooperation between the South African police and ACHIB is inappropriate and may invite abuses.

Local hawkers have written threatening statements against foreign hawkers, have organized protest marches, and on several occasions have viciously attacked foreign hawkers. Protest marches have repeatedly deteriorated into physical violence and looting of the property of foreign hawkers in central Johannesburg, Yeoville, Germiston and Hillbrow.

In August 1997, local hawkers in Central Johannesburg attacked their foreign counterparts for two consecutive days, scattering and looting their belongings and beating the foreign traders with sticks, knobkerries [a traditional weapon consisting of a stick with a heavy knob at the end] and sjamboks [heavy whips made out of rawhide].(25) A flyer announcing the protest obtained by Human Rights Watch stated "We want to clean the foreigners from our pavement." A South African hawker interviewed at the time vowed: "[F]oreigners flocked here after the [1994] elections and took our businesses. We will not rest until they are gone."(26) The chairperson of one local hawking group, the Inner Johannesburg Hawkers Committee, Mr. Mannekie Solomon, told the Sowetan newspaper that "We are prepared to push them out of the city, come what may. My group is not prepared to let our government inherit a garbage city because of these leeches."(27) More than one hundred persons were arrested on charges of participating in an illegal march after the unruly crowd broke into shops and started looting goods.

A few days later, on August 18, 1997, local hawkers attacked foreign hawkers at the Kerk Street Mall in Johannesburg, severely beating several Senegalese hawkers. Senegalese hawker Papa Demba was beaten and injured by bricks thrown at him while the crowd shouted "Phansi makwerekwere [a derogatory term for non-South Africans], phansi" (Down foreigners, down).(28) When police arrived at the scene, they advised Papa Demba to leave, but arrested only a single individual out of the group of about thirty attackers.(29) The South African Human Rights Commission issued a strong statement condemning the attacks on foreign hawkers, saying that "it is not for ordinary citizens to enforce street law, as was the case last week against the aliens."(30) Jesse Duarte, Gauteng Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Safety and Security, also condemned the violence, saying that "this anarchy is totally unacceptable."(31)

The situation in Johannesburg has remained volatile since the August protests. On October 23, 1997, approximately 500 hawkers marched again in Johannesburg, chanting slogans such as "chase the makwerekwere out," and "down with the foreigner, up with South Africans."(32) At a rally following the march, Manikis Solomon, a representative of the Greater Johannesburg Hawkers' Planning Committee, told the crowd that,

These people are not welcome. No country would allow the mess Johannesburg has come to. We must clean up the streets of Johannesburg of foreign hawkers. The pavements of Johannesburg are for South African citizens and not for foreigners.(33)

In November 1997, the Greater Johannesburg Hawkers Association called for a boycott of goods sold by makwerekwere, including Pakistanis, Chinese, Indians, Senegalese, Somalis, Nigerians, Moroccans, Zimbabweans, and Mozambicans.(34)

Attacks on hawkers are not limited to central Johannesburg. Foreign hawkers in Germiston were similarly attacked and had their property looted during a protest by local hawkers in November 1996. The local police promised to protect foreign hawkers from further attacks, but when foreign hawkers were again attacked on November 11, 1996, the police failed to protect them.(35) The chairperson of the local hawkers association, the Germiston Traders Partnership (Gemtrap), Levy Molusa, allegedly threatened one of the leaders of the foreign hawkers, Mr. Patrick Acho. Mr. Acho was later shot to death on December 30, 1996, by unidentified persons.(36) According to the foreign hawkers, the police showed little interest in solving the murder of Mr. Acho.

Human Rights Watch also interviewed a number of Somali hawkers who had been forced to stop hawking in Kempton Park after being threatened, and in some cases attacked, by local hawkers. A large community of several hundred Somali refugees and asylum-seekers visited by Human Rights Watch had once depended on hawking to make a meager income, but had been deprived of its only means of livelihood by violence and intimidation. Desperation abounded in the impoverished community, where men slept forty to a room in several cases. At first, many of the Somali hawkers found themselves targeted by criminal gangs that deprived them of their possessions, and they had little recourse to the police:

We were hawking in Kempton Park. When we went to our storage space, all of our stuff was gone. Gangs took everything. People have weapons so we can't do anything. So now we can't work anymore. The police ask us if we can identify them and tell us they can't help us if we can't identify them. There is no investigation. If we can identify them, the police don't go with us. No more Somalis are hawking in Kempton Park because we are afraid.(37)

Then, in August 1997, the local hawkers protested against foreign hawkers in Kempton Park, as they had done in Johannesburg:

The local hawkers had a strike in August, and robbed all the Somali hawkers. They kicked one Somali, and he lost three teeth. I saw the missing teeth. They also beat him with sticks. We went to the police and told them what happened. The police told us to go to Home Affairs...When I went back fifteen days later, the police refused to see me. The policeman told me, "this is not your country, go back to your own country." The police didn't try to get our property back or find out who assaulted us. When we report to the police, they don't do anything.(38)

Another Somali trader was beaten and robbed by a group of about twenty South Africans around the same time in central Johannesburg, according to one source: "They took his watch and money and wallet. He was unconscious in the street at the end. A white woman helped him and took him to the police station. The police didn't help him. The gave him a letter but never did anything about the case."(39)

Foreign hawkers in Yeoville told Human Rights Watch about similar experiences of attack by local hawkers and the lack of a police response. One foreign fruit vendor in Yeoville lamented the lack of protection foreigners received from the police: "If you are a foreigner, they can do any harm to you, they can hit you. At the demonstration, they hit some people with sticks. There were so many people injured. They attacked me to rob. They took my money, 550 rands [U.S. $ 110], and my refugee papers. They hit me in the face. Two had a gun and two had knives."(40)

Foreign hawkers in both greater Johannesburg and in Cape Town complained of recent attempts by local government to exclude them from hawking licensing schemes. According to Yeoville traders, city officials had begun handing out license applications in the aftermath of the recent protests. However, foreign hawkers were not given license applications, and when one foreign hawker requested them, he was refused: "I asked about the paper but they said it is not for me. The Council sent these two people, but they don't want to talk to us."(41) A second foreign trader confirmed this practice to us, saying "the Council didn't give registration papers to the foreigners, only to the citizens."(42) Foreign hawkers in Cape Town similarly complained that police officers had told them to leave the most prosperous hawking sites, and that police officials were refusing to furnish foreign hawkers with the application forms for newly instituted licensing schemes.(43)

Because the police seldom intervene and investigate abuses committed against foreigners, foreign hawkers often are a favorite target for criminals, who feel that they run little risk of apprehension if they rob foreign hawkers. One Somali refugee who used to hawk in Pietersburg told Human Rights Watch how he was violently robbed twice in less than a week, and how the lack of police response had forced him out of the hawking business:

I was selling trousers, belts, shoes and small items. One early morning, three persons overpowered me and took some of my properties, about half my goods. Five days later, two guys held me at gunpoint and took everything. I went to the police both times but they didn't do anything. He said to me, "We can't do anything but we shall try."(44)

A Nigerian hawker in Cape Town told us a similar story. He hawked chocolates at a local market, and had been repeatedly victimized by a local competitor, who used to come and steal his goods whenever he stepped away and left his female assistant to run the stall. Ultimately, he caught the offending competitor and was stabbed in the struggle which ensued. He repeatedly went to the police station, but "they never called me back, and I don't think they will do anything because I am not South African."(45) He ultimately gave up hawking, preferring to look for employment in "a safer environment where my life is not in danger. I was the last foreigner that hawked here, now it is all locals."(46)

The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Ms. Lindiwe Sisulu, has also suggested that asylum-seekers and refugees are trading illegally, and that South African hawkers should be given preferential treatment for hawking permits:

South Africa's immigration policy is premised upon the notion that no immigrant should be employed at the detriment of a South African citizen.... As the Department of Home Affairs does not issue immigration or work permits to foreigners permitting them to become informal traders, those foreigners with immigration or work permits issued to them for employment other than hawking, have in fact illegally entered the hawking business.(47)

The Alexandra Riots against Foreigners

The rise in xenophobic sentiments among segments of the South African public has resulted in an increase in physical attacks against perceived "illegals." Migrants interviewed by Human Rights Watch--including undocumented migrants as well as asylum-seekers and refugees--repeatedly told us they were often verbally insulted on the street and often told to "go home." In some instances, this verbal abuse has escalated into physical attacks.

Some of the most serious attacks on non-South Africans occurred in the Alexandra township near Johannesburg during December 1994 and January 1995. Over a period of several weeks, gangs of South Africans tried violently to evict perceived "illegals" from the township, after blaming undocumented migrants for increased crime, sexual attacks, economic deprivation, unemployment, and other social ills. The attackers claimed to be members of the ANC, the South African Communist Party, and the South African National Civic Organization--although these organizations denied complicity and in some cases condemned the attacks. The violent campaign was known as Buyelekhaya or "go back home."(48) Other groups linked to the violent protests were the Concerned Residents Group of Alexandra and the Alexandra Property Owners Association. The Alexandra Property Owners Association participated in the removal campaign but attempted to distance itself from the violence accompanying the campaign by saying, "We are simply doing the job for the police by handing them [the undocumented migrants] over and asking them to be deported back to their own countries."(49)

Mozambicans, Malawians, and Zimbabweans were the primary targets of the Alexandra Buyelekhaya campaign. In many instances, groups of armed men evicted suspected foreigners from their homes in the township and marched them to the local police station, demanding that they be repatriated.(50) In most cases, it appears that the undocumented migrants were indeed repatriated, although some legal residents were released after proving their legal status to the police. The possessions of some suspected undocumented migrants were thrown into the street, while other victims told Human Rights Watch that their possessions had been stolen by members of the armed gangs when they were brought to the police station for deportation. Some of the migrants who were released by the police after proving their legal status returned to their homes only to find the locks changed, or to find armed men preventing them from entering their own homes.(51)

Many of the so-called "illegal aliens" victimized by the violent campaign were in fact long-term legal residents of South Africa. One victim, Kenneth Ngwenya, arrived in South Africa from Zimbabwe some thirty years ago. During the campaign, he was forced from his Alexandra home by a group of approximately fifteen men, who threatened to burn his taxi if he attempted to continue operating it in the township.(52) As a result, Mr. Ngwenya and his three children were driven from their home and forced to seek refuge in a squalid apartment in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. Many migrants claim to have been assaulted during the campaign, a claim bolstered by the media and television coverage of the violent events.

Although the ANC provincial leadership condemned the use of violence at the time, it appeared more ambiguous on the aim of removing migrants from the township. ANC Gauteng deputy leader Obed Bapela stated that all undocumented migrants who did not have refugee status should be removed from the country, although in a humane manner.(53) The IFP Youth Brigade similarly called for the removal of all migrants in the wake of the Alexandra events, claiming they were involved in criminal activities.(54)


At the time of the first democratic elections in 1994, South Africa did not have any specific refugee legislation in place, and the new democratic government inherited an Aliens Control Act which was at odds with the Constitution and inconsistent with internationally accepted human rights norms. In order to remedy these deficiencies, the South African government appointed a Green Paper task group on international migration in late 1996 to propose a framework for a new migration policy which is in line with the rule of law, the South African Bill of Rights, and internationally accepted norms.(55) The Green Paper Task Group's mandate was defined broadly to include all areas of migration control, including refugee policy.

The Green Paper Task Group presented its draft Green Paper on International Migration to Minister of Home Affairs Buthelezi on May 13, 1997. Arguing that the "challenge for South Africa is to transform a racially-motivated immigration/migration system into a non-racial and rational policy response to the objective needs of the country," and that many of the clauses of the Aliens Control Act and their implementation "would probably not withstand a test of constitutionality," the green paper proposes a radical rethinking of South Africa's migration policy.(56)

The green paper proposed two separate pieces of legislation, one aimed at refugees and asylum-seekers and a second aimed at the various aspects of immigration control such as immigration, migration, and naturalization.(57)

The green paper argues that the current Aliens Control Act has elements that are inconsistent with the constitution and international obligations, particularly the wide administrative discretion that it grants to officials and because "the risk of arbitrary and unconstitutional action by the police, army, and immigration officials is greatly increased by an absence of clear procedures and guarantees set out in the legislation."(58) It recommends that the current Aliens Control Act be replaced with a new Immigration, Naturalization and Migration Act which complies with Constitutional and international requirements, is rights-oriented, and also puts forward an integrated and clear policy for migration in South Africa. Because of the past history of discrimination and the importance of regional cooperation, the envisioned legislation would allow special migration preferences to citizens of the SADC member states. Migration policy and enforcement would become the sole responsibility of a renamed Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services, ending the current blurring of responsibility between the Department of Home Affairs, the police, and the army.

The green paper argues that refugee policy should be contained in a separate piece of legislation, as it is predominantly a human rights issue and should not be subjected to immigration policy concerns. Such refugee legislation should allow for the timely determination of asylum claims by an independent body, based on the international definitions of a refugee contained in United Nations and Organization of African Unity conventions. Asylum-seekers would be allowed clear administrative justice and due process rights, including a right to appeal. The green paper also recommends that the government pursue regional, SADC-based solutions to refugee problems, and the creation of burden-sharing of refugee influxes in the region.

Human Rights Watch agrees in principle with most of the well thought-out recommendations contained in the green paper and believes that implementation of these recommendations would remedy some of the systemic abuses documented in this report. Many of the abuses discovered by our research are indeed caused by excessive administrative discretion, lack of oversight, the inconsistency of certain procedures with international and constitutional obligations, and the absence of a clear policy on migration. These deficiencies were recognized by Desmond Lockey M.P., the chair of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, who told Human Rights Watch that his own legal advisers had told him that the deportation process violated due process rights.(59) In order to remedy these deficiencies, it is essential that revisions are made to the current legislative framework.

Sources close to the Department of Home Affairs told Human Rights Watch that the Department of Home Affairs is unhappy with the recommendations of the green paper and that progress on legislative reform has been stalled by the department's leadership. In order for the proposals of the green paper to be translated into legislation, the Minister of Home Affairs must appoint a white paper commission. Although the green paper was published in May 1997, the Department of Home Affairs has yet to act on the green paper's recommendation for two white paper commissions, one to deal with refugee legislation and another to deal with immigration, migration, and naturalization. In fact, the Minister of Home Affairs has been noticeably silent on the issue of legislative reform and has barely commented in public about the green paper's recommendations.

Several of the officials charged with enforcing immigration policy told Human Rights Watch that the current system of immigration control simply was not working, and that a political solution was needed. Police Captain Chilembe told Human Rights Watch that his unit could arrest a thousand persons a day if they had the capacity, but "it is a losing battle, they are always coming back....In order to win this losing battle, we must invest in Mozambique, so the people can find employment there. Mozambicans love their country, but need to work."(60) Colonel Visser, commander of the SANDF's Group 33 responsible for patrolling the Mozambican border and the lowveld area of South Africa, echoed similar sentiments: "We [the army] do not have a problem with the aliens. The politicians must wake up because a political solution is needed....The aliens are mostly docile, friendly, nice people."(61)

Unfortunately, with the 1999 general elections beginning to appear on the political horizon in South Africa, the window of opportunity for migration and refugee legislative reform is becoming increasingly smaller. In the current xenophobic climate, politicians may feel that rights-based arguments in favor of immigration reform mean lost votes. And anti-immigrant sentiments within the ruling African National Congress are becoming stronger, according to some sources. Opposition political parties such as the National Party and the Freedom Front are increasingly clamoring for a crackdown on undocumented migration, not for a more rights-based approach. Thus, there is a risk that South Africa, at least until after the crucial general elections of 1999, will continue to govern its immigration practices under legislation that is widely seen as inconsistent with international and constitutional obligations. Without legislative reform, it will be difficult to address the problems and abuses existing under the current system, as many of these problems and abuses stem from fundamental deficiencies in the current legislation. In the meantime, without reform, Human Rights Watch fears that migrants in South Africa will continue to suffer major and systematic human rights abuses.

1. See section above entitled "Migration to South Africa Today."

2. Minister of Home Affairs, Introductory Speech: Budget Debate, National Assembly, April 17, 1997.

3. "Illegal Immigrants Cost SA Taxpayer R2,75 Billion a Year," SAPA, January 4, 1998.

4. "FF will support steps against illegal immigration," SAPA, January 4, 1998.

5. Kaiser Nyatsumba, "IFP Threat of Physical Action on Illegal Immigrants," Star, September 14, 1994.

6. "South African Defence Minister on Arms Sales," London Al-Quds al-'Arabi, November 19, 1997, p. 6.

7. "Be Strict or South Africa Becomes Home to Criminals, Illegal Aliens: NP," SAPA, March 3, 1997.

8. Ibid.

9. South African Institute of Race Relations, "Illegal Immigrants also have rights," dated March 22, 1997.

10. Blackman Ngoro, "Nigerian Drug Dealers Masquerading as Asylum Seekers," Sunday Independent, June 22, 1997, p.3.

11. "Phosa Slams 'Puppetry' Method of Premier Appointments," SAPA, August 23, 1997.

12. "Apartheid Created Southern Africa Refugee Crisis," SAPA, June 12, 1997.

13. "Most South Africans Hostile to Illegal Aliens: Survey," SAPA, June 10, 1997.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, Report on immigrants, refugees and displaced people (May 1995).

17. Ibid.

18. Gumisai Mutume, "No Immigrants Please, We Are South African," InterPress Service, March 21, 1997.

19. "Farmers Concerned Over Illegal Immigrants," SAPA, September 24, 1997.

20. Isaac Moledi, "Foreigners must be thrown out," Sowetan, October 6, 1997, p.23.

21. Sally Peberdy, "The Participation of Non-South Africans in Street Trading in South Africa and in Regional Cross-Border Trade: Implications for Immigration Policy and Customs Agreements," Briefing Paper for the Green Paper Task Force on International Migration (Pretoria, 1997). Available on the world-wide web at (last visited February 18, 1998).

22. Human Rights Watch interview with Akinjole A.J. "Giant," Nigerian refugee hawking in Cape Town, December 11, 1997.

23. Minnaar and Hough, Who Goes There?, p. 186.

24. Ibid. Comments made by Lawrence Mavundle, President of ACHIB, and other ACHIB affiliated persons at the March 26, 1997, meeting between ACHIB, the Department of Home Affairs, and the South African police, attended by a Human Rights Watch representative.

25. Patrick Phosa, "Hawkers vow to Continue CBD Protests," Star, August 15, 1997, p.2.

26. Ibid.

27. Dan Fuphe, "Hawkers Rampage," Sowetan, August 14, 1997.

28. "Street Gang Attacks Foreign Hawkers," Sowetan, August 19, 1997, p.5.

29. Ibid.

30. "Hawkers' Attack Dent SA Human Rights Image: HRC," SAPA, August 18, 1997. The attacks were also condemned by African Methodist Bishop Mvume Dandale. "Attitude towards Africa Refugees a Source of Concern: Dandale," SAPA, August 17, 1997.

31. "More than 100 vendors arrested in Johannesburg," SAPA, August 14, 1997.

32. Emaka Nwandiko, "Hawkers want foreigners out," Mail & Guardian, October 24 to 30, 1997.

33. Ibid.

34. Swapna Prabhakaran and Bongani Siqoko, "'Foreigners' not welcome on pavements," Mail & Guardian, November 21 to 27, 1997.

35. "A Cry Against Injustice," Letter by Foreign Hawkers in Germiston to Premier of Gauteng Tokyo Sexwale, undated.

36. Ibid.

37. Human Rights Watch interview with Iwad Achmed, Somali refugee, in Johannesburg, November 27, 1998.

38. Human Rights Watch interview with Somali refugee, Johannesburg, November 27, 1997.

39. Human Rights Watch interview with Sahel, Somali refugee, Johannesburg, November 27, 1997.

40. Human Rights Watch interview with Paul, in Yeoville, November 28, 1997.

41. Human Rights Watch interview with Musa, in Yeoville, November 28, 1997.

42. Human Rights Watch interview with Paul, in Yeoville, November 28, 1997.

43. Human Rights Watch interview with Cameroonian trader, Spin Street, Cape Town, December 9, 1997.

44. Human Rights Watch interview with Somali hawker, Johannesburg, November 27, 1997.

45. Human Rights Watch interview with Mickey, Nigerian hawker, at the Parade, Cape Town, December 11, 1997.

46. Ibid.

47. Media Release by the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Ms. Lindiwe Sisulu (MP), dated August 19, 1997.

48. Minnaar & Hough, Who Goes There?, p. 188.

49. Anna Cox, "Armed gangs force foreigners out of their Alexandra homes," Star, January 25, 1995.

50. Tendai Dumbutshena, "Gangs Evict Zimbabweans," Star, January 22, 1995.

51. Ibid.

52. Tendai Dumbutshena, "Hounded from their homes," Star, January 29, 1995.

53. Anna Cox, "Go Home, ANC tells Illegals," Star, January 26, 1995.

54. "Aliens Must Go-IFP," Sowetan, January 27, 1995.

55. The Green Paper Task Group's mandate is available on the world-wide web, at (last visited February 18, 1998).

56. Draft Green Paper on International Migration, presented to the Minister of Home Affairs on May 13, 1997. Available on the world-wide web at (last visited January 20, 1998).

57. Ibid, Section 5.4 "The Road Ahead".

58. Ibid.

59. Human Rights Watch interview with Desmond Lockey MP, New Parliament, Cape Town, December 9, 1997.

60. Human Rights Watch interview with Captain Chilembe, Head, Internal Tracing Unit Nelspruit, South African Police Services, Nelspruit, December 1, 1997.

61. Human Rights Watch interview with Colonel Visser, Commander, Group 33, South African National Defence Forces, Komatipoort, December 2, 1997.