ZEF Raises Alarm over Recurrence of Xenophobic Attacks

The Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) is extremely concerned about the recurrence of xenophobic attacks last night in Itireleng Municipality and in particular Laudium, west of Pretoria. Mainly Zimbabweans in Alexandra (Johannesburg), Mamelodi and Atteridgeville (Pretoria) have received notices warning them to leave these areas by tomorrow, Saturday.

ZEF has on several occasions called upon the South African government to engage civil society and to find long term intervention measures to deal with this scourge. Unfortunately, the culture of impunity associatated with attacks on foreigners means that prejudice continues to take root in South African society. Last night, dozens of foreigners were forcibly displaced from their homes, with shops belonging to mainly Somalis ransacked and smashed. An 8 month pregnant woman was one of the victims that the police through their much appreciated quick intervention have rescued from a night in the bush, where many had hidden, to provide shelter at a community hall. The police's strong presence in the area is much appreciated.

Xenophobic attacks at this juncture owe a lot to irresponsible political statements by people in political parties; elements of the business community that fear competition; inflammatory reportage by the media and the culture of impunity associated with this hate crime. ZEF also believes that the resumption of deportations is unfortunate, as it fuel xenophobia due to the alarming numbers already deported last week. 118 Zimbabweans were deported from Beitbridge on Wednesday and Thursday, while about 600 were deported last week. If these are not mass deportations contrary to the assurances previously given by the South African government, then we don't know what is. Of worrying concern is also the fact that in spite of 2 court orders in favour of Lawyers for Human Rights, the police have continued to act in contempt of court by deporting Zimbabweans from Beitbridge, a role that should have been left to Home Affairs.

ZEF reiterates that it is ill-advised and premature to resume forcible returns to Zimbabwe as the political situation in that country remains precarious and fragile before the next elections. Instead of focusing on cyclical deportations, the organisation hopes that the South African government will assist the over 4 million in exile to reclaim their franchise and be able to vote from host countries. ZEF Executive Director, Gabriel Shumba today said "Once a free and democratic Zimbabwe has been realised, millions will be keen to go back to their motherland."

Zimbabwe Exiles Forum calls upon the South African government to immediately convene a meeting of stakeholders that can come up with a concerted approach to the problem of intolerance in this country.

Mr Shumba added, "We hope that this meeting will include the 2 co-Ministers of Home Affairs from Zimbabwe, who have been deafeningly silent on this issue. In addition, we wish to put it on record that most Zimbabweans staying in Rural Development Programme houses have not obtained them fraudulently, but are paying rent to absentee landlords. It should also be noted that those who actually own the houses are South African citizens originally from Zimbabwe. They obtained citizenship either because they are spouses or because they have sufficiently stayed in SA to qualify for such citizenship. "

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