1500 Zimbabweans remain in SA refugee camp

kwerekwereMore than a thousand Zimbabwean nationals trying to scrape together a living in South Africa are still living in squalid conditions in a refugee camp near Cape Town, three months after they were forced to flee their homes.

In November last year the foreigners fled for their lives from the informal settlements they were living in near the De Doorns farming town in the Western Cape. Angry locals threatened violence against the Zimbabweans, accusing them of stealing their jobs, and burned down several shacks the foreigners were living in. With no where else to go, local officials set up an informal camp on a sports field in De Doorns, and the foreigners have remained there ever since.

“I was very afraid,” said Tsungai Chavhunu, 30, who lives in the camp with her husband and 2 year old baby. “It was the first time in my life I’d been threatened so hard,” she told Zimbabwe Democracy Now, a rights group which recently visited the camp. The group also reported how the harassment and abuse of the foreigners by the locals has continued.

“Even standing on the curb outside the refugee camp, insults are hurled at the Zimbabweans from passing trucks,” the group said. “Go back to Mugabe!” they shout, and “Go back to Zimbabwe you ‘kwerekwere’,” a derogatory term for foreigner.

Locals have also continued threatening violence over the months, saying they will ‘braai’ the Zimbabweans if they return to the communities. Just last month, a local pastor told the Cape Argus newspaper that ‘there’s no place for them here,’ adding the community will ‘turn them into KFC,’ should they return.

The South African government is now trying to intervene to calm a situation that many have said is ‘symptomatic’ of a larger problem of xenophobia across South Africa. Braam Hanekom, Chairperson of the refugee rights organisation People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP), said that “Home Affairs is taking the crisis seriously and they’re not trying to sweep it under the carpet.”

Meanwhile the situation at the camp is deteriorating and there has recently been an outbreak of tuberculosis and diarrhea among babies living at the camp. Mike Moyo, a Chairperson of the Committee for the Displaced in the camp, told Zimbabwe Democracy Now that there is no clinic or medication in the camp, with the only option being to risk being attacked and walk to the local clinic 800 metres away. He said local nurses at the clinic allegedly send the sick away without helping them.

Post published in: Politics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *