Immediate release:                                                                                                                 27 April 2020



Minister Tito Mboweni: True Economic Transformation will be Equal and Accessible to All who live in South Africa

Xenophobia does not only exhibit itself in physical violence, attacks or the looting of foreign owned properties and belongings. It is pervasive in South Africa’s public discourse that insinuates, hatred, prejudice and the government’s official statements and policies which institutionalise the exclusion and discrimination of refugees, asylum seekers and foreign migrants and their children.

This was, once again, well demonstrated in Minister Tito Mboweni’s press briefing on the government’s economic and social measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Minister Mboweni publicly asked that the new economy respond to his anecdotal figures on foreign nationals in South Africa’s hospitality industry. Mboweni further stated that any establishment wanting to open must have a new labor market policy which prioritises South Africans’. While he claims this is not xenophobic, it undeniably insinuates further xenophobic sentiment, policies and promotes division.

In a State of National Disaster, which has had a pervasive economic impact, especially on the most vulnerable in our society, there is no place for pin pointing blame on refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants, who to date have been largely excluded from social and economic relief measures instituted by the government. This tactic has become stereotypical of leaders in South Africa and across the globe by blindsiding populations into thinking that complex issues can be resolved simply by excluding certain groups from labor markets.

CoRMSA recognises the great task your Department has in carrying South Africa through an economic crisis compounded by historically high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality. Prejudice, discrimination and exclusion should not be the pillars of your response in this democratic country that embraces and respects the human rights for all irrespective of nationality.  Rather, true economic transformation will be equal and accessible to all who live in South Africa.

While it is well known that immigrants make significant contribution to South Africa’s economy. A 2018 study by The OECD Development Centre, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the European Commission, on the contribution of immigrants to South Africa’s economy noted that:

Immigrant workers make a significant contribution to the South African economy. Immigrants are well-integrated into the labour market in terms of employment and unemployment rates, and in general do not seem to displace native-born workers. The contribution of immigrant workers to GDP is estimated to be close to 9% in 2011, and just below their share in employment. Nevertheless, immigration is raising income per capita in South Africa, while immigrants also make a positive net fiscal contribution.[1]

Secondly, the majority of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers take up positions in the informal economy characterised by precarity, exploitation and no labor protection. Since the enforcement of the national lockdown, to a large extent the informal economy has shut-down. Resulting in many families not having any form of income. For people who depend on subsistence from selling clothes, food, services including domestic work, amongst others, this has considerably heightened people’s vulnerability and puts at risk people’s ability to take measures to prevent contracting COVID-19 as they try to survive. Furthermore, refugees, asylum seekers and foreign migrants have largely been excluded from both social and economic relief measures put in place in response to COVID-19, extending their vulnerability even more.

Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are integrated in South Africa’s labor market and more importantly communities. It is imperative in ensuring the protection and well-being of all people in South Africa through the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in a national humanitarian, health and economic crisis, that relief measures are extended to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants and that local communities rally together to ensure the protection and safety of all people.

Our response to prevent the further spread and consequences of COVID-19 relies on our collective effort to ensure the inclusion and protection of all people. A response that does not include refugees, asylum seekers and migrants is detrimental to the response itself.

For inquiries or more information please contact: Thifulufheli Sinthumule (CoRMSA) 71 358 0059 or Abigail Dawson (CoRMSA) +27748515683

[1] OECD/ILO (2018), How Immigrants Contribute to South Africa’s Economy, ILO, Geneva/OECD Publishing, Paris,


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