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WATCH — Archbishop of Johannesburg invites Premier of Gauteng to be more compassionate to foreigners

The premier of Gauteng, David Makhura, has once again spoken harsh words of foreign nationals. In his Lent message given exclusively to spotlight.africa, the archbishop of Johannesburg shared his disappointment at these inhumane attitudes, saying that we ought to expect more from our leaders. Ricardo da Silva SJ, reports. 

At the 2019/20 Gauteng budget breakfast meeting in Johannesburg this week, the premier of the Gauteng Province, David Makhura suggested that the South African government should invoice foreign countries for health services provided to foreign nationals coming to South Africa. He also blamed foreign nationals for the exceeding levels of crime, asking: “how do we have so many drug dens that are operated by Nigerians in our country?” 

In an exclusive interview with spotlight.africa on 7 March 2019, the archbishop of Johannesburg, Buti Tlhagale, responded critically to Makhura’s suggestions saying that “one would have expected more sympathy and more compassion from our leaders.”

Tlhagale expressed that many of these foreigners are “people who have left their countries under duress, who have fled persecution, fled wars, who have fled from hunger, from their own countries.” He added that they have arrived in South Africa “harassed and tortured” hoping “that we would unburden them”.   

However, the archbishop did share some sympathy with the premier. He conceded that some foreigners were indeed engaged in illegal activities, like drug trafficking and robberies, and that these give the rest of the migrant communities a bad name”.

As Catholics begin the penitential season of Lent, the archbishop recalled that “the Gospel reminds us of the generosity of Christ” and that Jesus’ example should, especially at this time, “inspire us to be more compassionate and understanding.”

The archbishop ended his message with an appeal to the Catholic faithful, and indeed to all citizens, that they might find items they no longer need or use and give them to migrants and refugees in need. 

He invited them to make their Churches available as places of meeting and welcome, and made an appeal that the faithful might “think about giving employment, even if it’s partial, to some of them [migrants and refugees]”.

The archbishop closed his message expressing his particular concern for refugee and migrant children. Many of these children are even at risk of becoming stateless.

The archbishop asked Catholics, during Lent, to take on the challenge, and “go out of their way” and “get the legal fraternity to help persuade the government — at least to ensure the future of these children — by giving them identity papers so that they can get the education they need. And perhaps even becoming citizens of the country”, he ended. 

WATCH — Archbishop Buti Tlhagale’s Lent message

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.

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Ricardo da Silva SJ
Ricardo is a member of the South African region of the Jesuits and an ordained deacon of the Roman Catholic Church. In 2020, he received a master's degree in journalism from the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, New York, where he was an African Pulitzer Fellow and reported on religion, mental health, housing and other social injustices. Before moving to the U.S.A., Ricardo served as acting editor of spotlight.africa and was on the team at Jesuit Institute South Africa. His preparation for ministry as a Jesuit has taken him to study theology in Brazil, philosophy in the U.K and brief working stints in Zimbabwe and Spain. As a Jesuit, he has ministered to refugees, migrants, people experiencing street homelessness, young adults, seminarians, the elderly, and high school and university students, staff and faculty. Before entering religious life in 2007, Ricardo worked in marketing, communications, and brand management before joining the Jesuits in 2007. Ricardo holds dual citizenship, having emigrated from Portugal to South Africa at the age of six with his mother.

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