National Conference on International Migration - Sandton, 17 March 2017


Fellow South Africans:

Tonight, we have convened to honour those who have distinguished themselves in different categories of our national life and who, by their actions, have elevated our country’s name and its humanity – UBUNTU – beyond our national borders.

Their actions extend beyond what is happening tonight, and long after tonight’s ceremonies have passed, peoples of the world will continue to talk about what we are doing as South Africans to extend the frontiers of freedom and peace, to live up to and continue to give new meaning to the spirit of Ubuntu as well as to contribute towards the colossal effort of African unity.

Tonight’s celebrations highlight the fact that international migration, and particularly immigration, does make a positive contribution to every aspect of our national life.

As tonight’s awards will demonstrate, these are not broad generalisations we are making, but are facts demonstrated by real living individuals that are making their mark on the South African economy, in sport, in the arts and culture and as NGOs, both in our country and abroad.

The awards will further demonstrate that South Africa is a cosmopolitan, diverse and dynamic society that has opened its arms to the world, is welcoming of foreign nationals in our midst and that lives according to the highest ideals of our Constitution and struggle.

Towards this effect, we will also honour two important categories; that is,

  • A South African community that has integrated well with the immigrants, dispelling by their actions the generalised myth that South Africans are a xenophobic and Afro-phobic people, and
  • A South African or groups of South Africans that are making positive contributions abroad, flying the flag of our country in foreign lands, helping to underscore our internationalist spirit. 

This year, we introduce a new category targeted at young South Africans in universities, those who have demonstrated a deep understanding of the role of international migration towards enhancing South Africa’s social cohesion.

We will announce 10 young finalists selected after the essay competition we ran in partnership with the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) that will embark on an all-expenses paid trip to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, the Seat of the African Union to visit the AU Head-Quarters on a learning excursion and to enhance their own understanding of the AU work and of the concept of African Unity!

South Africa has become a major point of origin, transit, destination in the continent.

We have become a preferred destination for investors.

Major conglomerates in the manufacturing and service industries are establishing their regional offices and / or assembly plants in South Africa and foreign companies seeking to invest in Africa are increasingly using South Africa as a base to explore business opportunities in other African countries.

South African companies are increasingly expanding their businesses into other countries in Africa and our investments and exports abroad are growing.

To underscore our integration into the African continent, most immigrants we receive annually, including asylum-seekers, are from the African continent.

At the same time, many South Africans have taken advantage of globalization and have migrated to various developing and developed countries. 

Accordingly, the South African diaspora abroad can contribute to the achievement of national goals more than is presently the case.

Yet, current national thinking and attitudes to international migration are influenced by an unproductive debate between those who call for stricter immigration controls and those who call for controls to be wholesale relaxed. 

The discourse is in general characterised by strong emotions, stereotypes, unreliable anecdotes, and contested statistics, and a futile debate between economic growth and security imperatives. 

International migration must clearly advance our economic interests and national security, and at the same time it must deepen both our humanity and diversity – social cohesion.

Similarly, contributing to the economic development of our region and continent as a whole, in line with our long standing, Africa-oriented foreign policy, is in our enlightened self-interest. 

Therefore South Africa’s international migration policies must be aligned with our international relations policy and therefore must be Afro-centric.

The vision that we are proposing, is one which holds that South Africa should embrace international migration for development. 

The fact is that it is neither desirable nor possible to stop international migration; what we need to do is manage it to realise its benefits. 

Importantly, the efficient and secure management of international migration is the responsibility of individual countries, all countries collectively as well as regional structures.

In addition, the management of international migration must become a “whole-of-government” and “whole-of-society” responsibility, outlining the responsibilities of the state, civil society partners, individual citizens and foreign nationals in South Africa with regard to migration.

Tonight’s awards contribute towards these broad and comprehensive policy approaches.

I wish to thank our sponsors for making these awards possible.

Finally, I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate all the nominees for these Awards and particularly the winners.

Your stories inspire us and make us strive to be better people in our own fields of endeavour.

I thank you.

 

For media enquiries contact Thabo Mokgola 060 962 4982 or Mayihlome Tshwete


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