12 June 2007

The Illegal Alien Is My Neighbour!

izzonline: South African economy built on cheap black labour. Izzonline makes an important point. There's a lot of xenophobia about. It's not only in South Africa. A few years ago I was touring Greece with my wife and daughter, and we stayed at a hotel that was not really open, because the tourist season had not yet started. It was in a little fishing village. The owner brought his motorbike in to the vestibule for the night, "otherwise the Albanians will steal it".

And I somehow felt right at home, because back home in South Africa we would blame the Zimbabweans. It is estimated that there are something like a million illegal immigrants from Albania in Greece, and perhaps three times that number of Zimbabweans in South Africa.

But I've not really met and talked to the Zimbabweans (or Mozambicans or whoever) who have stolen my stuff. But I have met and talked to honest Zimbabweans in South Africa, and what strikes me about them is that they are a lot better-educated than most South Africans. I teach in our church theological school, and it is the foreigners who are better students -- Zimbabweans, Congolese. In the case of the Congolese, English is not a second but a third language, yet they pick it up and use it better than South Africans. In church services we read the Psalms a lot, and I found a Zimbabwean who could read the psalms fluently in English (which was his second language), while a South African whose home language was Northern Sotho stumbled over them in that language.

OK, Zimbabwe and Congo never had Bantu Education. But they have had economic meltdowns and civil wars, so they haven't exactly had a good learning environment either. And the fact is that while some illegal immigrants may be criminals, others are hard-working honest people among them who are better-educated than many South Africans and are assets to the South African economy.

And the criminals are probably better-educated than our police, which is why the police are running around in circles, and hardly ever catch them.

Quite a long time ago now I visited Singapore, and I was interested in their philosophy. They were a small country, and their only asset was their people. So they reasoned that they must develop that asset and spend a lot of money on education. And we in South Africa must do the same. So what if the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund demand that we apply "structural adjustment" programmes designed to keep our people in ignorance? To hell with them; let their structural adjustment programmes go back to hell where they came from.

And perhaps we need to be using those illegal immigrant teachers from Congo and Zimbabwe and such places to teach South Africans a love of learning and the meaning of hard work.

And then there is Sepherim: The Illegal Alien Is My Neighbor!, who shows how unChristian the attitude of some so-called Christians is towards illegal immigrants.


Magotty Man said...

On my farm I had a (legal) Mozambican as a farm worker - and I have enver seen anybody with such a terrfifc work ethic. He'd come to work when he was sick, and I had to send him home. As soon as he felt just a little bit better, he'd return. Actually, while our conversation was basically only in a sort of fanagalo (Zulu-Shangaan-Afrikaans-English), he understood my instructions better than the local, Afrikaans speaking Tswana guy I also had working for me for a couple of months.

The key to the difference between them was in the Mozambican chap's desire to go forward, contrasting with the local chap's 'I deserve' attitude. Needless to say, when I left the farm, I made the effort to find the Mozambican alternative work and accomodation, with a good, more-than-minimum wage.

When you know what it is not to have, you are more careful when you eventually get something.

Izz said...

Scylding, I once read another insightful blog entry on the work ethic of South Africans and it was written by a black man. And he was not impressed with how some of his brothers and sisters carried forward the philosophy that they deserved the jobs they were in and that they were entitled to laziness.

Methodius, you hit home right with this entry. Xenophobia, my take on it at least, is driven by fear of the competitiveness of the foreigner and the local knowing his bad lazy habits, fearing for losing out. When you are in a land that is not your own, you are most motivated to behave and toil twice as hard - in some cases of course. But the point is, yes, immigrants work harder because somewhat, they don't feel entitled by virtue of being the voting citizens of that country.

But then again, a lot more people would argue that we are generalising on this issue. But that's not the point. The point is that the observations are there, and the race in question is not at a level, economically, where it should toil less.

Steve Hayes said...

Yes, I think that immigrants do work harder, partly because they need to prove themselves. I sometimes wonder if they would work as hard back in their home countries as they do in countries they have emigrated to.

One quite often finds well-qualified immigrants doing menial jobs. Yet there are often well qualified South Africans who are unemployed.

Izz -- I liked your suggestion in your blog that higher education should be free. Even if qualified people are unemployed, we still have a skills shortage.

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