Programme Director, Mr Thulani Mavuso

Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Malusi Gigaba

Ministers of Home Affairs from SADC Member States (Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland & Zimbabwe)

Deputy Minister Fatima Chohan

Ambassadors and High Commissioners

Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs

Members of Parliament

Distinguished Delegates,

Programme Director, on behalf of the Ministry and Department of Home Affairs, I’m honoured to welcome everyone present here to the National Conference on International Migration Policy for South Africa. Your attendance is highly valued and appreciated. A special word of warm welcome to the Honourable Ministers from the region; we are, and will always be indebted to the people of your countries for their valuable contribution to the liberation of the people of this country.

This is a golden opportunity to further shape a new international migration policy, proper for the country, the region, the African continent and the rest of the world.

My heartfelt gratitude to the Research and Drafting Team, the Steering Committee on the White Paper on International Migration, as well as the DHA EXCO, for working tirelessly; they did us proud from the beginning of the policy review. They’ve now brought us safely under one roof further to refine the proposed international migration policy. 

We are indeed grateful for the guidance received from the Minister and the Deputy Minister throughout the process. 

This review arose from the need for a new policy framework that will inform systematic reform of current legislation. South Africa’s international migration policy has been in place as far back as 1999, in spite of major changes in the country, region and the world. Therefore, it doesn’t enable us to adequately embrace global opportunities while safeguarding our sovereignty, ensuring public safety and national security. 

Other African countries continue to liberalise their immigration regimes in line with the African Union 2063 vision. Amendments we made were only those for closing gaps in the immigration and refugees acts and regulations.

I suppose, you will agree, this has been a very long voyage towards radical change. Yet one worth taking! Many of you have contributed to the review process, through various platforms. For this we thank you. 

Public consultation has entailed developing discussion papers, receiving and incorporating written submissions, engaging stakeholders through a series of meetings, workshops, roundtable discussions, and gazetting the Green Paper. The Green Paper and public responses to it have been used as a basis for drafting the White Paper on International Migration.

The national conference, hosted by Minister Gigaba, is a continuation of this extensive public consultation. Again we invite you vigorously to interrogate the White Paper for us to produce the best of policy, appropriate for a South African, regional and African context.

Distinguished Delegates, your being here, and, most certainly, your valuable critique, should enliven the commitment we have made, of taking “a whole of government and society” approach to policy development, in the true spirit of the National Development Plan, which encourages partnerships. For it to succeed, international migration policy requires inter-sectoral governance, because in its nature, it is cross-cutting. Our consultation has also been intergovernmental.

We welcome your views, and contending voices. We think the spirited public debate unfolding since the Green Paper’s launch shows the influence of migration on the national agenda.

This 2-day conference was prioritised to engage experts and practitioners, both local and internationally based. I do believe in the absence of your views, the Green Paper and the White Paper, wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

I invite you therefore to dissect critically the proposals we have made on migration, residency and naturalisation, asylum and refugee management. A good friend once shared an enlightening African proverb. He said he brought it home from Nigeria, in one of his many travels as an exile, forced to migrate to friendly countries in the continent.

He said, “You cannot shave a man’s head in his absence!”

So over two days, our heads, in a sense, you will “shave,” from the 1st Session, titled, “Overview of the Draft White Paper on International Migration,” right up to the 5th Session, on Day-2, which is dedicated to a “Roundtable Discussion on a Regional Migration Strategy.”

The “Overview” should help unpack the White Paper, while reminding us of the rationale for the review. It should assist in setting the scene for critical dialogue.

A regional approach is fundamental. Thus, this dedication of Day-2 to exploring the theme: “Moving towards an integrated and responsive regional migration strategy.” Thus, we’re truly honoured to have among us Ministers from SADC Member States to help map a way-forward.

In sum, conference deliberations, and the entire legislative process for a new policy, are for us, absolutely crucial. This process constitutes a vital component in the quest to reposition Home Affairs to the extent that it fully discharges its mandate. The full mandate is to deliver mandatory services to the citizens. It is to support economic development. And, it is to serve as the nerve centre of government, properly positioned in the security system of the state. Measures for repositioning we articulated in the business case approved by Cabinet this month.

To borrow a phrase from a letter by Karl Marx to Arnold Ruge, I trust this conference won’t be about, “hair-splitting over words.” It’s not enough merely to interpret the world, and in our case, simply to read the complex situation of movement of people, without changing it.

I invite you to provide practical solutions by which to change, qualitatively, the South African international migration landscape. With regard to the White Paper, I challenge you to:

  • Interrogate, whether our proposals are proper to improve management of international migration in an African context, or not. 
  • Indicate, if the route we’re proposing is the best of options to manage residency and naturalisation in the national interest.
  • Critique, with no gross arbitrariness, or dodging, the proposed pathways towards managing asylum seekers and refugees more humane, and still, by all means secure.

Africa’s destiny and the mission to define ourselves are on our shoulders. It’s a mission none can afford to betray. Let’s take the tide at the flood, to find African solutions for Africa’s problems.

Allow me, distinguished Delegates, once more to welcome you warmly to this 2-day National Conference on International Migration Policy for South Africa.

I thank you!