A long time ago Zimbabwe, under the government of the late Robert Mugabe, passed some indigenisation laws and everyone, including me, laughed and scoffed. Now it seems more and more African countries are passing similar laws. Not so long ago Botswana passed indigenisation laws that prohibited foreigners from entering into certain sectors. Now South Africa is in the process of doing the same.

Carving out sectors for locals

One reason often given for xenophobic attacks is the fact that fellow black foreigners are often accused of taking away economic opportunities from their fellow black South Africans. It’s an issue that has seen the ruling ANC party continue to lose support every time Mzansi goes to the polls. In the past, the ANC used to lead comfortably in all provinces but now they struggle especially in rural areas. In order to stop the slide, they have decided to legally acknowledge the reasons given by the leaders of xenophobic attacks.

The country’s legislature recently passed a bill called the National Labour Migration Policy and Employment Services Amendment Bill which is now at the public comment stage with stakeholders being invited to comment of the clauses in the bill. The bill places quotas on the total number of foreigners certain companies and sectors can employ. Covered sectors include:

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  • Agriculture
  • Hospitality
  • Tourism
  • Construction
  • Platform workers e.g. Uber Drivers

There have been complaints that foreigners from countries like Zimbabwe often take jobs that local South Africans can do in these sectors. The South African government blamed foreigners for causing distortions in the market and dominating the informal sector.

Shortgap measure

The thing though is that the ANC is just taking the easy road of blaming foreigners. It’s been done and is being done in a lot of ultra-capitalist countries like the United States and the United Kingdom too. The truth though is that all this social discontent stems from inequality spurred on by unbridled capitalism which as resulted in the rich getting richer and the poorer getting poorer.

In South Africa, the means of production are dominated by white citizens and foreign investors. These keep getting richer thanks to the lack of things like pay reform and proper tax enforcement. Going after foreigners will give the government breathing room and allow them to reduce the pressure by going after unpopular foreigners rather than having a showdown with the ultra-rich who would make it a nasty fight.

In the grand scheme of things, indigenisation plays better than land reform for example.