ONE Zimbabwean died in escalating xenophobic attacks in Durban, South Africa, as Government yesterday set up an inter-ministerial team to facilitate the immediate return of those displaced by the attacks.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said in a statement yesterday that reports indicated that the attacks were serious and close to 800 Zimbabweans had been displaced and fled to a camp established in Chatsworth, Durban.
"So far, it has been established that one Zimbabwean has died. As a result of these reports, Government decided that those Zimbabweans wishing to return home be facilitated to do so immediately. An inter-ministerial team has been put together at both ministerial and senior official level. The team is expeditiously putting in place the logistics as well as the resources necessary for this exercise in close liaison with the Zimbabwean Ambassador in South Africa and his staff," he said.
Minister Mumbengegwi said a number of Zimbabweans had expressed their wish to return home to embassy officials who visited Durban to assess the situation and discovered that it was tense.
This came as South African ambassador Mr Vusi Mavimbela said in an interview yesterday that his country lacked the capacity to deal with the flurry of xenophobic attacks targeting foreigners.
"The police, really, to be honest, if this thing spreads, the police don’t have the physical capacity to be everywhere and to arrest everybody who is involved. I know you watch South African TV you see things like service delivery protests that happen, flare up all the time in South Africa and the police have never been able to contain it. This xenophobic thing that is happening in South Africa you know if its spreading the police are going to be spread thin all the time and they can’t be at every informal settlement," he said.
Mr Mavimbela said the South African government needed to come up with a holistic approach in addressing socio-economic issues and immigration laws to reduce the competition for resources between South Africans and foreigners.
He spoke as the SA government warned foreigners against retaliating.
Zimbabwean Ambassador to South Africa Mr Isaac Moyo said in an interview yesterday that he was yet to confirm reports of the deaths of two Zimbabweans, among them a toddler.
He said over 2 000 foreigners, including Zimbabweans had been displaced.
Mr Moyo said the embassy, with the assistance of the host government, had started documenting Zimbabweans affected by the attacks who are at Chatsworth Camp in Durban.
"We met with South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister, Mr Malusi Gigaba and the premier for Kwazulu Natal Province to get an appreciation of their plans to arrest the volatile situation and assist the victims," said Mr Moyo.
"We are very hopeful that a solution will be arrived at soon."
Mr Moyo said the embassy was encountering challenges in cases where undocumented South African women were insisting on travelling to Zimbabwe with their husbands.
He said about 10 undocumented South African women were insisting on travelling with their husbands, while 120 Zimbabweans had left their properties under the attack of South Africans.
Mr Moyo said the situation was dire in Durban given the cold weather persisting there and the absence of adequate tents to house the displaced people.
The Durban violence outbreak follows similar violence in Soweto where foreign shops were looted and foreigners displaced three weeks ago.
The attacks started after Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini said in a public speech that foreigners in South Africa should return to their countries and the remarks were widely viewed as having sparked the xenophobic attacks.
In 2008, in the worst violence to date against foreigners, over a dozen people were killed — some burnt alive through neck-lacing, a barbaric, painful slow-killing method in which a burning tyre, filled with petrol, is placed around one’s neck.