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South Africa is celebrated globally, as a thriving constitutional democracy, where human rights are central to everyday life. Section 27 of the Constitution provides that everyone has the right to have access to health care services, including reproductive health care services and no one may be refused emergency medical treatment. This guarantees the right to healthcare services as a basic human right.

As a country, South Africa cannot afford to contradict its own values, including Ubuntu, tolerance, and respect for one another.  Failure to live our constitutional values consistently may create space for opportunists to drive instability, division and intolerance in the country, thus adversely impacting the efforts of our forefathers in fostering cooperation and human relations with our neighbouring countries in Southern Africa and beyond. 

Recent events we have seen unfolding in our country, require deep introspection by all concerned. A reflection on our values and guiding principles is warranted, and in so doing, there is a need to acknowledge critical disablers that are facing South Africa today. In this context, we also need to recognise that government has a responsibility to address illegal immigration in South Africa. 

The Home Affairs Ministry is currently reviewing three Acts related to immigration issues, namely: the Refugee Act, the Citizenship Act, and the Immigration Act, in order to align and simplify these statutes for everyone.  They have acknowledged that some of our laws were enacted in a period where things were very different to how they are now. As such, there is a need for us to modernise our laws to reflect our current circumstances, based on current realities. It is in this spirit that as a country, we must embrace the various interventions being implemented to accelerate our efforts towards a sustainable policy environment. 

There is no doubt that illegal immigration and all its consequences must be addressed swiftly. It is also clear that regional socio-economic cooperation and integration, as well as political and security cooperation among 16 countries in Southern Africa, must be prioritised to ensure that as a region, we truly live up to expectations, by proactively engaging in open dialogue, to find mutually beneficial solutions for our common challenges. To achieve this, as South Africans we need to revisit our values, particularly dialogue, as a means to address our differences. 

Importantly, as Africans we will not meet our own aspirations as contained in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 blueprint, if we are not unified and if we do not address our own challenges in a solution oriented and collaborative and sustainable manner. Peace, cooperation and stability are vital for Africa’s development. 

If Africa as a continent is to triumph in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), regional leaders must address challenges on access to healthcare for its citizens. Most importantly, we need to recognise that as Africans, we will not meet our own aspirations as contained in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 blueprint, if we are not united  in resolving Africa’s problems in a peaceful and united manner that will have lasting solutions.

Trade is critically important to economic development. Right now, Africa has about two percent of all world trade, which is hard to believe when you think about all of the tremendous resources that it has – oil, diamonds, gold … not to mention all the agricultural products such as coffee, tea, cocoa – and to think that Africa still only has two percent of world trade is really incredible. But the power of trade is that if Africans were able to increase their share of world trade from two to three percent, that one percentage increase would actually generate about $70 billion of additional income annually for Africa,” or about three times the total development assistance Africa gets from the entire world. As a country, our fortunes are inextricably bound with the security and prosperity of our continent. 

As South Africans, we must constantly remind ourselves of our commitment to our principles. Deviating from our constitution and values is certainly not the solution and failure is not an option. DM

Thandi Tobias is the former Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry. She writes in her capacity as the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees at Brand South Africa.


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  • allan j whitehead says:

    Ubuntu left when the Honourable (?) Right Reverend Bishop Desmond Tutu stopped a necklacing and democracy passed away in 1996 when President Mandela went on pension.

    Former Deputy Minister of the DTI, how in the name of everything decent did you get this cushy job ???? FFS.

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