The African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, places an obligation on states to protect the rights of internally displaced persons regardless of the cause of displacement. However, at the De Doorns site, residents have been denied several rights and freedoms. The residents are prohibited from working with PASSOP, a local NGO which provides advocacy services to refugees and asylum seekers. Several residents at the site confirmed in sworn in Affidavits that the Site manager had openly threatened to throw them out of the safety camp if they were seen engaging, cooperating or seeking the Services of PASSOP. Most of the residents openly stated that they felt intimidated and scared to approach PASSOP and other NGOs. The Site manager is reported to have made threats publicly that NIA will have informers at the site to identify those working with PASSOP saying they would be handed over to the Zimbabwean authorities who would hand them over to the CIO.
While the government is obliged to provide for displaced persons with adequate humanitarian assistance such as food shelter, medical care and other services necessary, the situation at the site has proved to be for from sufficient.
Residents have complained of the difficulties of accessing health care. A mobile clinic only visits once a week. Asked about this, the site manager argued that the residents were free to visit health facilities in the community, an option which many residents did not see as viable.
Worse still, meals are no longer being served at the site. The safety site manager, Sean Minns, confirmed this position arguing that it had been realized that ninety per cent of the site residents were in paid employment. How the unemployed, those with disabilities and those in poor health will survive remains unclear. People on medication, especially for TB, require sufficient food to support their medication regime.
The general sentiment amongst the displaced Zimbabweans at the camp is that the reduction in humanitarian assistance and services is a strategy designed to force re- integration back into the hostile community. They urged the government to rethink this strategy as they were not convinced that this would provide a lasting solution to the problem. In their view only an inclusive process would create sustainable conditions for voluntary returns, local re-integration or relocation.
Zimbabweans living in South Africa are a tool through which politicians can negotiate their influence. South African grass level politicians have just to scream and shout get rid of them and their popularity soars. Politicians at higher levels, however, are more calculated. For example- Tsvangirai last week called for Zimbabweans to return to Zimbabwe, clearly aiming to impress South African political leadership.
It is said that in places like De Doorns the local community has celebrated when large immigration raids were implemented. Many raids were done at politically convenient times. Over the past few years (when government aimed to deport as many Zimbabweans as they could) the immigration crackdowns were often in line with election campaigns. It is sad but true, foreigners live in fear of politicians, but also of communities. When a South African township is struggling to get attention around a particular service delivery item, xenophobic violence is a very effective means of getting attention from politicians who are ignoring them. In short, there will never be a time in the foreseeable future when the safety of Zimbabweans among the South African impoverished communities can be guaranteed. They are hostages that are held to what ever ransom at which ever time for what ever reason.Post published in: Politics