ZEF pleads for media balance on xenophobia

‘A viewer on SABC 1 recently called for immigrants to be deported lest they tarnish the image of SA before the World Cup’

JOHANNESBURG - The Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) continues to be dismayed by hate-filled and speculative media reports ascribing the increase of violent cri

me in South Africa to Zimbabweans. The organisation is worried that a series of such articles have been churned out by the Daily Sun, among other newspapers. Some of these articles have linked Zimbabweans in exile to the recent heist at Johannesburg International Airport.
Last week, the Sunday Times followed these and other ‘reports’ with the allegations that the standoff with alleged robbers that resulted in the death of four policemen and nine suspects was the brain-child of former Zimbabwe military personnel. The SABC 2 morning news recently once again linked the story about the appearance of a Zimbabwean student in court over an attempted high-jacking of a South African Airways flight from Cape Town with the announcement that about ‘2 million economic refugees from Zimbabwe’ are estimated to be in the country.
It is interesting to note that the SABC shies away from mentioning the number of men, women and children that are in the country because of rape, torture and other crimes against humanity as a result of Mugabe’s tyranny. Or are we supposed to assume that they are covered under the blanket ‘economic refugees’? Once again, ZEF would like to make it clear that there is no such thing in law as an ‘economic refugee’. A refugee is a refugee in terms of international law and any abusage as that seen exhibited by the SABC can only be seen as deliberate politicization of international law.
ZEF reveres freedom of the press, and indeed many other freedoms that the organisation fights to protect. However, it finds the stereotypical and carefully calculated incitement described above completely unacceptable. To begin with, the facts at hand do not warrant the generalizations that the media outlets have reached, i.e., that Zimbabweans in SA are behind the wave of crime in the country. For example and as admitted by the Sunday Times, there were only five Zimbabweans as compared to eight South Africans involved in the death of the four policemen. However, the headline was a screaming accusation that Zimbabweans were behind the wave of crime in SA.
ZEF believes that the Daily Sun has been the most vicious in this unrelenting attack on Zimbabweans’ dignity as refugees in SA. In a string of articles that allege Zimbabweans’ involvement in crime, the newspaper has rarely been in a position to positively identify those alleged to be Zimbabwean.
We earnestly implore the media to be sensitive to the plight of refugees in their reporting. The kind of reporting that we have witnessed in recent weeks can only lead to hate, increased xenophobia and violence against Zimbabwean men and women who are already suffering other human rights abuses in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Such a scenario of discrimination and violence would be in direct violation of the South African Constitution and would indeed be reminiscent of the Apartheid era in SA. Chillingly, a viewer on SABC 1 recently called for some immigrants to be deported to their countries lest they tarnish the image of SA before the World Cup! – ZEF is an international network of Zimbabweans forced into exile because of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms committed by Robert Gabriel Mugabe and his regime

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