Mashaba checked over claim that there are 15 million undocumented foreigners in SA

Africa Check has debunked Herman Mashaba’s claim that SA has 15 million undocumented foreigners.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali

Fact-checking group Africa Check has responded to Action SA leader Herman Mashaba’s statement that SA has 15 million “undocumented foreigners, saying that there is no evidence to support the claim.

Mashaba made the claim earlier this month, saying the country had 15 million undocumented foreigners with some “occupying jobs that can be done by our own people”.

To back up his claim, Mashaba shared a link to a 2019 report by The Citizen. The article said that 15 million people in SA are unregistered, and many are “stateless children”. It also stated that “the World Bank say that the country has more than 15 million unregistered people”.

After linking to his source, Mashaba said “ultimately the exact number matters less than what DHA [ department of home affairs] is doing to address this concern”.

However, Africa Check said its research revealed no evidence to support Mashaba’s say.

The organisation said it was difficult to account for every undocumented migrant, but available data “points to a figure much lower than 15 million”.

According to Stats SA’s chief director of demographic analysis, Diego Iturralde, the number of foreign-born people living in SA in 2020 was about 3.9 million. He told Africa Check this included both documented and undocumented foreigners.

The UN population division estimated that there were 4.2 million international migrants living in SA in 2019. This represents 7.2% of the country’s population of 59.6 million people.

The World Bank’s 2018 data estimated that the total number of adults and children who do not have “proof of legal identity” in SA was 15.3 million.

The data does not provide information on the number of “migrants, refugees and stateless persons” without South African identity documents.

Africa Check said the number Mashaba cited referred to both citizens and foreign residents who do not have “proof of legal identity”.

“While working out the exact number of undocumented migrants in the country is complex, the latest estimates do not support Mashaba’s widely shared statement. We rate his claim incorrect,” said the organisation.

by Unathi Nkanjeni