While Western Cape premier Helen Zille is fast gaining a reputation of ‘tweeting like Donald Trump’, analysts and legal experts have accused Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba of channeling US president in using fear and discrimination to go after undocumented immigrants in the city.
In an interview with Bloomberg this week, Mashaba made it clear that illegal immigrants in the city of Johannesburg are a massive problem, and impeding the local government’s ability to make good on campaign promises to reclaim and redevelop the inner-city.
The mayor has it in his sights to turn Joburg into a ‘construction zone’, to reclaim the inner-city, push out corruption and create jobs.
Before he can accomplish this, however, Mashaba said he needed to clear out the inner city of illegal occupants.
The mayor said he was a considering a ‘shock and awe’ campaign to rid hijacked buildings of their occupants, so that private companies can get in, renovate them, and create low-cost apartments and homes for citizens.
However, this plan – and Mashaba’s attitude towards foreign nationals – has drawn criticism from both legal and civil rights groups, who say that the mayor can be likened to Donald Trump with his scare tactics.
Speaking to Bloomberg, national director of Lawyers for Human Rights, Jacob Van Garderen said that Mashaba and Trump play off the same book, creating fears that migrants are taking over the economy.
Other legal experts have warned that evicting undocumented immigrants from their homes is illegal, unconstitutional and impractical. Further, Mashaba’s remarks run the risk of causing more xenophobic attacks against foreigners.
Mashaba, however, has dismissed complaints from “so-called human rights groups”, saying that companies are on board and ready to start developing the city, while illegal immigrants remain an impediment.
The mayor said that his mandate was to run the city of Johannesburg and to make good on the campaign promises that got him, and the DA, elected.
“My mandate is to run the city of Johannesburg and that’s where I’m putting the focus on,” he said.