- The University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Sociological Research and Practice is mired in controversy after releasing a report whose credibility has come into question.
- A counter-report by Msanzi Voice found the UJ report riddled with methodological flaws and unsubstantiated findigns.
- UJ says the report compiled by its scholars and titled, “Neither a Beggar Nor a Thief”, does not represent its official position.
The University of Johannesburg (UJ) has been forced to distance itself from a controversial report claiming that non-stringent immigration laws benefit South Africa, saying it was internally addressing questions about “methodological flaws and unsubstantiated” findings.
This comes after a counter report by a group of South African researchers tore into the university’s Centre for Sociological Research and Practice report, titled “Neither a Beggar Nor a Thief,” dismissing it as being riddled with critical methodological flaws and making impractical recommendations.
Released in August, the UJ report argued that the Department of Home Affairs’ insistence on cutting the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP) would result in a loss of critical skills and cause homelessness for foreign nationals working there.
Moreover, it claimed that the government was pushing ZEP holders to become “undocumented migrants”. Paddington Mutekwe, Lydia Moyo, Lance Mpofu, Claire Ceruti, Trevor Ngwane and Bonisiwe Mokone are among the UJ researchers and academics who compiled the report, widely quoted in the media.
A counter-report compiled by Mzansi Voices, whose researchers included Dr Thandazile September and Khanyi Sibiya, found that the UJ report had “methodological flaws” and the university scholars lacked objectivity, and balance and made unsubstantiated conclusions.
Contacted for comment after the release of the Mzansi Voice report, the University of Johannesburg said the “Neither Beggar Nor Thief” report did not represent its official position and views.
“We wish to clarify our stance on academic freedom and our commitment to academic integrity. UJ acknowledges that academic freedom is a cornerstone of any reputable institution of higher learning. We fully support the rights of researchers and scholars to explore a wide range of topics, to engage in constructive and open dialogue, and to express diverse perspectives, “ said UJ’s senior manager for strategic communications and university relations, Lebogang Seale.
“We believe that a robust exchange of ideas is crucial for intellectual growth and the advancement of knowledge. At the same time, it is important to clarify that the views and findings presented in the Neither Beggar Nor Thief report do not represent the official position of the University of Johannesburg. UJ subscribes to the core principles of maintaining neutrality and impartiality and to the upholding of meticulous standards in academic research.”
Seale added that UJ remains committed to its mission of academic excellence, inclusivity, and the pursuit of knowledge for the betterment of society.
“We encourage a constructive, critical, and responsible exchange of ideas within the bounds of academic integrity. The university is addressing the matter pertaining to the report in question internally.”
Moyo, Ngwane, Mpofu, Mutekwe, Mokone and Ceruti could not be reached for comment. UJ declined to share their contacts.
According to the UJ report, “the banks, the farms, the mines, the tourism industry, the logistics industry, the financial services sector, manufacturing, retailing, property development and academic institutions, are heavily reliant on Zimbabwean labour and trade.”
“Either way, dislocating ZEP holders will negatively affect South Africans too. For example, local producers and retailers will lose revenue if there are fewer people buying goods in South Africa to send back to Zimbabwe, and that could affect jobs. There’s also rental income and the like that will be lost. The South African economy has been enjoying the skills of people who were educated at little to no cost to this economy.
“The report has shown the withdrawal of the permits to be an inhumane and unfair act, affecting both Zimbabweans and South Africans negatively. We believe that [the] government’s tendency to present immigrants as a burden serves another narrative that the failure of government to deliver its 1994 promises is someone else’s fault while consciously overlooking the role of large corporations in draining our economy,” reads part of the report.
However, a review of the report by a group of researchers known as Mzansi Voices questioned the methodology and conclusions reached by the UJ report. Mzansi Voices is a collective of passionate South Africans promoting informed civic engagement, research, education, legal analysis, and transparency.
The civic movement says it is a coalition of formidable professionals comprising esteemed PhD holders, accomplished attorneys, ardent advocates, seasoned human resource experts, skilled public relations specialists, and innovative information technology strategists.
According to Mzansi Voices’ counter report, compiled by a team including Dr. Thandazile September and Khanyi Sibiya, the UJ report was “riddled with critical methodological flaws” and made “impractical recommendations”.
They identified several glaring issues that cast doubt on the UJ report’s credibility and the validity of its claims, including the lack of transparency regarding data collection methods and sources, which raised concerns about the accuracy and impartiality of the findings.
“The exclusion of diverse voices and perspectives, particularly from South African citizens, undermines the report’s purported objectivity and balance. One of the central contentions of the ‘Neither a beggar nor a thief’ report is the assertion that Zimbabwean immigrants bring critical skills to South Africa.
“However, Mzansi Voices delved into extensive global research, revealing that such claims are far from substantiated. Multiple studies, including those conducted by the International Organization for Migration, highlight that immigrants, including Zimbabweans, often hold skills that are readily available in the host country,” reads the Mzansi Voices report.
It emphasizes that the influx of Zimbabweans with skills such as teaching exacerbates South Africa’s burning issue of teacher unemployment, thus challenging the UJ report’s assertions.
“The analysis further scrutinizes the recommendations posed by the report to the South African Department of Home Affairs. Mzansi Voices deems these recommendations impractical and potentially detrimental. Without thorough scrutiny, the calls to simplify documentation access and permit renewals could potentially overwhelm the country’s resources and compromise its national security.
“The analysis underscores the need for a balanced approach that respects the rule of law while addressing immigration challenges. Mzansi Voices took a closer look at the report’s plea for South Africa to adopt uBuntu as a guiding ethos for immigration matters. This call appears inconsistent when contrasted with the immigration regulations enforced by several African nations, including Zimbabwe,” Mzansi Voice noted.
The Mzansi Voices report further laid into claims that South Africa’s deportation practices left little to be desired.
“The disparity between principles advocated for and actions taken within Zimbabwe’s borders raise questions about the report’s impartiality. The analysis expands its scope by drawing on examples from West African countries like Nigeria and Ghana, including our SADC neighbour Botswana, all of whom have demonstrated the significance of robust immigration laws in addressing migration challenges.
“These nations have deported foreign nationals for immigration offenses, emphasizing the importance of maintaining order and security within their Borders. Lastly, Mzansi Voices rebuts claims that Zimbabwean immigrants would be incapable of returning to their home country due to various challenges. The analysis cites numerous real-world examples from various nations, showcasing the resilience and adaptability of migrants who have managed to establish successful lives amidst adversity,” reported Mzansi Voices.
“In conclusion, the comprehensive analysis conducted by Mzansi Voices unveils a multitude of methodological flaws, challenges the veracity of skills claims made in the report, and critiques the impractical nature of the recommendations. It underscores the necessity for evidence-based, balanced immigration policies that prioritize the rule of law and the interests of South African citizens.”