A matter of life and death

First Published: 2008-07-05

Reprinted with the kind permission of Ms. Boudreaux, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, lead researcher for Enterprise Africa!, a research project that is investigating, analyzing, and reporting on enterprise-based solutions to poverty in Africa, and a member of the Working Group on Property Rights of the U.N.’s Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor.

Printed in the Guardian, UK, Friday, June 27, 2008.

A matter of life and death
South Africa urgently needs to reform its labour market to halt the violence aimed at immigrants

With violence and instability at home, thousands of desperate Zimbabweans have fled to South Africa seeking refuge, only to confront deportation and further violence. Last week, Human Rights Watch, a New York–based human rights group, urged South Africa to stop deportations of Zimbabweans and come to the aid of their neighbors.

During the past month Zimbabweans have met anything but neighbourly assistance, and today’s sham election is likely to push even more Zimbabweans into a country where they are already the target of violent crime ranging from muggings to murder. Over the past month more than 60 people have been killed and many more injured and maimed. Most of the victims are other poor Africans who have fled their countries for a chance at a better life.

By some estimates South Africa has taken in over three million illegal immigrants in the past year – not just people in search of better jobs, but also Zimbabweans fleeing Robert Mugabe’s reign. The unfortunate byproduct of this influx of immigrants is a