WSF (1996): “No To New Pass Laws: Solidarity With Immigrants! ”

WSF (1996): “No To New Pass Laws: Solidarity With Immigrants! ”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 2, number 2, third quarter 1996. Complete PDF is here

For centuries bosses and rulers have set out to divide and rule the workers and the poor. We are divided by racism, sexism, homophobia, ethnicity etc.. More recently bosses have used xenophobia- the hate of foreigners and immigrants.

The bosses’ newspapers and TV lie to us and tell us that so -called “illegal” immigrants or “aliens” are taking jobs and causing crime. The government passes harsh laws to victimise the immigrants. Last year alone 157,084 people were deported from South Africa. These people lost their homes, their jobs, their belonging. Families were split up.

In mid 1996 parliament passed the new Aliens Control Amendment Act. One of the main forces behind this act was Gatsha Buthelezi, Home Affairs Minister [IFP leader, part of the GNU/ Government of National Unity].

The new Act steps up police harassment and deportation of immigrants. It is a blatant attack on Black working-class people and we should mobilise to fight it.

All immigrants now have to apply to the South African Embassy for permits to enter the country. But the laws have been made to effectively keep working- class and poor people out .

Immigrants are expected to pay R 5 580 for a permit to enter the country and a extra R 360 for a work permit. People found living in South Africa illegally are fined R 4 000 or a one year prison sentence, or both. Of course these people can also be deported.

No working- class or poor immigrant can afford to pay this. This means that only the rich are allowed to enter our new country.

In practice the police only raid black immigrants. This effects all black workers and poor. If you are black and found without you ID document the police will arrest you. The police never ask rich or white people for their ID documents to check if they are “illegal” immigrants.

For more than 50 years Black South Africans were harassed, thrown in jail, and pushed around under the pass laws. Now Buthelezi wants the same thing to continue happening to us and too Black people from other countries. Immigration laws are no different to pass laws. Black workers are still not able to chose to live or work where they like.

Immigrants who acquire permanent residence rights are not allowed to move from one province to another for a year after their application is approved. They will even have to pay the Home Affairs Department R 360 to apply for permission to change jobs!!

The government has justified keeping poor and working class immigrants out by arguing that immigrants cause crime and take away jobs.

This is a lie! Crime and unemployment are the direct result of the bosses system. It is the bosses which throw workers out of their jobs. It is the bosses who do not invest money into job creation. It is the poverty caused by capitalism which forces people into crime.

Do not be fooled. Lets turn our anger on the real enemy: the bosses and the rulers. We the working-class create wealth. We make the factories, the schools, houses, roads. The bosses live off our sweat, and we starve.

We should live better than we do now. Put aside the false divisions of immigrant versus South African. Unite all workers and poor people in mass trade unions and civics. And fight back!


About Lucien van der Walt

I teach at Rhodes University, the Eastern Cape. I’m South African, born and bred. I have long been involved in union education, and have a background in social movement and left-wing activism, the Workers’ Library and Museum, the Anti-Privatisation Forum, and the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU). I’ve presented or published 100s of papers conferences and workshops, published in key journals like 'Capital and Class' and 'Labor History', have co-edited 4 journal specials (these on global labour history, African labour, and unions in the Global South), and produced five books. I was Southern Africa editor for the 2009 'International Encyclopaedia of Revolution and Protest' (Blackwell). My focus has been on South Africa, but I have also done research in Zambia and Zimbabwe. I won the 2008 international 'Labor History' thesis prize, and the 2008/2009 Council for the Development of Social Science Research prize for best African dissertation, for my PhD thesis on South African anarchism, syndicalism and black militants. My books includd include 'Politics at a Distance from the State: Radical and African Perspectives' (2018, co-edited with Kirk Helliker), 'Negro e Vermelho: anarquismo, sindicalismo revolucionário e pessoas de cor na África Meridional nas décadas de 1880-1920,' and 'Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1880-1940: the praxis of national liberation, internationalism, and social revolution' (co-edited with Steve Hirsch, Brill, 2010/ 2014).