Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa, Mr David Hamadziripi yesterday said the embassy has started engaging the host government to improve the safety and security of migrants who are facing attacks by groups in the neighbouring country.
Already, most of the migrants living in poor suburbs around Gauteng Province have been given three days’ notice to leave their homes, while some are being forced to quit their jobs.
Ambassador Hamadziripi said although they were yet to come into contact with Zimbabweans affected in the potentially volatile situation, they were not leaving anything to chance.
“We have since made contact with the relevant authorities here through our consulate in Johannesburg,” he said.
“The embassy is equally concerned with the reports we are getting and we are verifying the facts with the help of our hosts.
“The whole idea is to ensure that they deploy the necessary agencies to deal with the safety and security of our nationals.”
He said the consulate in Johannesburg was hard at work in Gauteng Province verifying some reports as shown in some videos circulating to the effect that some migrants were under attacks from local citizens.
A human rights activist, Ms Nobuhle Ajiti, said she had been in contact with a number of migrants in Soweto, Johannesburg who had fallen victim to the attacks by local citizens
She said most of those affected were from Nigeria, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
“The situation on the ground is tense and the migrants are distressed, others have been told to vacate their homes by the end of this weekend and some have had their stock, phones, and wares taken by locals.
“They are being told to leave for their home countries. So we have managed to secure alternative accommodation in the interim at local churches while efforts are being made to address their plight,.
Ms Ajiti said following engagements with those in the informal sector, it was clear that the migrants were renting several stalls from the South Africans monthly.
She said the volatile situation was being pushed by politicians and vigilante groups in the neighbouring country.
Zimbabwean Community in South Africa spokesperson, Mr Bongani Mkwananzi said they were yet to encounter their fellow countrymen who had been directly been affected by the ongoing disturbances, but were engaging various stakeholders to help those likely to be affected.
A Zimbabwean journalist based in South Africa, Mxolisi Ncube, said the main driving force to attacks on migrants had been the proliferation of right-wing political parties and vigilante groups that were riding on South Africa’s economic downturn to scapegoat foreigners and build political capital.
“You will note that South Africa has of late seen a rise in the rate of unemployment, crime, and economic collapse, with the Covid-19 situation further causing a strain on the economy,” said Ncube.
“Former Johannesburg mayor, Mr Herman Mashaba, built his profile around attacking migrants. Many political opportunists realised a political niche market on the anger against migrants.
“That is why Mr Mashaba and the Patriotic Alliance used anti-migrant rhetoric as their campaign cards in an exact manner that Trump used migrants in the US. Having ceded some seats in local government elections last year, the EFF, which was pro-migrants, and the ANC, which was indifferent, seem to have changed course and joined the crusade which seemingly has rich pickings.”
He said in several interviews, representatives of migrant truck drivers had raised concern over repeated attacks on their colleagues on major highways.
Echoing the same sentiments was the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum and Human Rights Lawyer, Advocate Gabriel Shumba.
He said some political party opportunists and instigators wanted to build momentum on the last electoral cycle in order to garner presidential votes on the back of the anti-immigrant sentiment.
“I think that their incendiary rhetoric has the potential to ignite an already volatile situation, which seems to mainly anti-Zimbabwean. It is high time other countries take a strong view of this and impose measures that can protect vulnerable migrants in South Africa,” said Adv Shumba.