Activists protest South Africa’s travel ban on stateless groups

African women’s rights activists are holding protests across South Africa this weekend as the country signs into law a raft of travel restrictions on groups that accuse President Cyril Ramaphosa of being soft on colonial rule.

While Ramaphosa celebrated liberation by granting Senegalese citizenship and granting permanent residency to Tanzanian refugees in South Africa, a list of 28 so-called “stateless” groupings of people, many of them descendants of anti-apartheid fighters, has received the country’s legislature’s backing.

The so-called Omicron program is seen as a thinly-veiled reminder to politicians that South Africa’s independence from colonial rule has not always gone smoothly, because there is deep antagonism between the ANC and members of that historical group.

The program will require non-resident groups to be registered with the government, have proper documentation for their head offices, and show that they “consult with local authorities,” for example regarding plans to build a house or farm.

Activists who are rallying against the travel ban vow to continue their campaign. One of the groups, Omicron, called the travel ban “intimidating” on Friday and demanded it be lifted immediately.

South African lawmakers who voted for the travel ban on Friday included Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, who for decades was a member of the ANC youth league until allegations that she helped extort money from late ANC founder Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie helped keep her in the party under fire.

Madlala-Routledge is married to a senior ruling party official and is still the group’s national chairperson. It is unclear if she has been punished for actions that undermined the ANC.

During the five-year anniversary of Mandela’s death in 2013, Madlala-Routledge backed a small group that bore the former president’s portrait. The group posted anti-government photographs on Facebook.

To a group of political opposition lawmakers who invited Madlala-Routledge to be the guest speaker at the celebration, Madlala-Routledge said the South African people “deserve to know what the future holds for us. We represent the future.”

Initially, Madlala-Routledge insisted she would not attend the memorial, but she eventually showed up and discussed South Africa’s political transitions.

Despite her earlier opposition to welcoming Madlala-Routledge into the ANC, ANC leaders said on Friday they were interested in a “positive engagement” with her to deal with issues such as corruption.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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