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Johannesburg Executive Mayor Parks Tau took an impassioned stand against xenophobia in his State of City address on Wednesday, 6 May.

Our home is your home: Mayor Tau to Joburg's migrants
'We are all migrants' - Johannesburg Executive Mayor Parks Tau. (Photo: www.joburg.org.za)

In a speech delivered at the Metro Centre in Braamfontein and broadcast live on the major local radio stations, Mayor Tau called on all citizens "to fight back with clearly voiced reason against the toxic falsehood that economic opportunity is limited, and that migrants somehow may deprive local people by participating in our economy.

"The reality is that the very opposite is true - the more people who actively participate in our economy, the more opportunities there are for all," the Mayor said. "Migrants who come here to work, to play fair, to build businesses and offer services are unambiguously good for this city.

"As long as access is fair, by-laws are observed and enforcement of rules is consistent, none have any cause to claim that the energies and efforts of our new arrivals damage our economy or our society."

Mayor Tau's call follows a recent spate of attacks on foreign African nationals in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and other parts of the country. At least seven people were killed and dozens of others injured in the violence, while hundreds of foreign-owned shops and homes were looted and thousands of foreigners displaced.

On 23 April, the same day that a number of civil society and trade union organisations marched through Johannesburg in demonstration against xenophobia, Joburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) workers and management took to the streets in a similar demonstration at Zoo Lake.

JCPZ workers formed a human chain along Jan Smuts Avenue holding placards reading "No to Xenophobia," and chanting "End xenophobia now", while motorists travelling the route showed their solidarity by hooting in response.

In his address on Wednesday, Mayor Tau pointed out that human migration has been at the heart of Joburg's development as a city since its inception.

"For as long as this city has existed, this has been the case - this city's vibrancy, vigour, its very foundation, is built by migrants. The estimated population of the mining camp, along with the surrounding villages that would become this great city, back in 1886, was a few hundred people. So the overwhelming majority of us are 1st, 2nd, 3rd or, at best, 4th generation migrants."

The city has introduced a programme to reintegrate foreigners affected by the recent violence into Johannesburg communities. Business has also been engaged in discussions to minimise tensions over jobs.

Mayor Tau pointed out that urbanisation was not an obstacle but rather an opportunity. "We see our diversity as a source of strength and social cohesion, a building block for community growth."

He continued: "We stand with members of the Joburg Migrant Advisory Panel, whom I have invited to join us today, and give this commitment:

"We stand with you, as our brothers and sisters. Our home is your home. We speak with the authority of the vast majority of decent Joburgers who are repulsed and saddened by the racist, xenophobic and afrophobic actions taken by a selfish minority of criminals. We embrace the teachings of Du Bois, Pixley Ka Seme, Kwame Nkrumah, Franz Fanon and the proud parade of thinkers who have taught us that our identity is bound together.

"We are, and will always remain, a world-class African city open to the world."