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Close to 4,000 Zimbabweans are languishing in South Africa's prisons for various crimes varying from theft, fraud to murder, the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa (ZCSA) director, Ngqabutho Mabhena, has said.

Mabhena said he discovered the "shocking news" after visiting the Zimbabwean consulate in Pretoria, South Africa yesterday and was handed documents that have a damning report on Zimbabweans.

It is estimated that there are over three million Zimbabweans living in South Africa although about  250,000 are officially documented.

Mabhena said his organisation, which seeks to help Zimbabweans living in South Africa with documentation and any other issues, is still trying to digest a voluminous "dossier" handed to it by the consulate.

"We as, the Zimbabwe Community In South Africa are concerned by the high number of Zimbabweans in South African prisons.

"The document made available to us today in Pretoria shows that 3 687 Zimbabweans are serving time in South African prisons. We are carefully studying the document; engage the authorities and we will then make our comments (sic).

"We are not sure at the moment if family members back home are aware that their loved ones are in prisons. This number does not include those awaiting trial," said Mabhena in a statement.

He said while South African government had not said anything about the matter, he will seek to meet the authorities and "map the way forward" regarding Zimbabwean prisoners.

"I suspect that most of the relatives of the incarcerated people do not know their fate because most of them have been in prison for as much as 20 years. We hope to contact the families, maybe they might do something," he said.

There have been xenophobic attacks in the recent years on foreigners in South Africa, Zimbabweans included, as they are blamed for the increased crime rate in that country.

Earlier this month, South African Home Affair minister Malusi Gigaba re-granted  Special Dispensation Permits to Zimbabweans working in that country after calls to extend the permits.

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