ZIMBABWEAN migrant workers based in South Africa yesterday expressed fears after South Africans circulated videos of a planned demonstration to force their government to kick out foreigners whom they accuse of dominating the job market.
The campaign, dubbed #PutSouthAfricansFirst, is meant to pile pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government to cancel special visa permits for Zimbabwean and Lesotho citizens.
The demonstrations are scheduled for October 16 at the Church Square in Pretoria.
In an interview yesterday, Migrant Workers Association-South Africa (MWA-SA) chairperson Butholezwe Nyathi said the messages had unsettled thousands of Zimbabwean migrant workers.
He said messages on the videos and flyers called on the South African government to deal with illegal immigrants and reserve certain jobs for locals.
The South Africans demanded that their government should open refugee camps away from cities and towns.
They also demanded that immigrants should not receive social grants and stay in RDP houses.
“The issue of deportation has always been there and people keep coming back. It is a short-term solution, same as the issue of cancellation of permits, it will lead to more illegal immigrants. We need active engagement as well as campaigns against things like crime on one hand and promotion of mutually beneficial coexistence in Sadc and Africa in general,” Nyathi said.
“We want to establish migrants desks at churches and places where migrants can have access for help …. especially linking to service providers. I hope this will help to protect our people. Challenge is we have not been proactive, we always react to these attacks. We saw it in 2008, 2015 and 2019.”
This comes amid reports that South Africa shed 2,2 million jobs during the second quarter, according to Statistics South Africa.
Contacted for comment, staff at the Zimbabwean embassy in South Africa said they would issue a statement later in the day, but had not done so at the time of going to print.
The developments come at a time President Emmerson Mnangagwa has spurned efforts by the South African government to help in stabilising the local economy which has forced thousands of Zimbabweans to cross into the neighbouring country as economic refugees.