Briefing reporters on the cabinet’s decisions, government spokesman Jimmy Manyi yesterday said among the rights under review were the right to work and study in South Africa.
Manyi would not say whether the government wanted to change immigration laws to remove these rights.
He said a review was “not a euphemism for downgrading or whatever”, but the department of Home Affairs said it would release more details of the review today.
Legal Resources Centre attorney William Kerfoot warned that any move by the government to revoke the rights of asylum seekers to work or study would contravene a 2004 Supreme Court of Appeal ruling, which said that barring asylum seekers from working or studying was unlawful based on the constitutional right to dignity.
Salim Vally of the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Education Rights said it would “fly in the face of international treaties and conventions that guarantee the right to education”.
“The government must stop making ‘foreigners’ the scapegoats for their failure to set up a quality public education system,” Vally said.
Braam Hanekom, director of People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty (Passop) said any downgrading of immigrants’ rights would not only be “right wing and oppressive”, but also completely infeasible.
“The current asylum process is back-logged and inefficient and often takes more than five years for a decision to be made. How are asylum seekers supposed to support themselves all this time while the Department of Home Affairs is trying to reach a decision?” Hanekom asked.
Also up for “assessment” by the government is whether the judicial system has transformed over the years. The government, Manyi said, would hire a research institution to probe how Constitutional Court rulings had influenced “socioeconomic transformation”.
When asked whether it was appropriate for the government to investigate the Concourt, Manyi replied: “The executive has a duty to do what it has to do. The fact of the matter is that the decisions that get taken have an impact on society. This is a policy exercise. It is nothing to raise temperatures about.”
This follows recent comments by President Jacob Zuma that the judiciary should refrain from interfering in the government’s policies and legislation passed by Parliament.
The ANC’s Gwede Mantashe recently told Sowetan that some judges had positioned themselves as an opposition to the ruling party.