Xenophobia Fear Drives Zimbabweans Out Of South Africa

BY VLADIMIR MZACA – BEITBRIDGE -Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa have been returning home in droves for fear of xenophobic attacks breaking out after the World Cup.

The assistant regional immigration manager at the Beitbridge border post, Charles Gwede, said there had been an increase in the volume of people going back to Zimbabwe.

“Last week on Saturday we had about 7632 people travelling back home while only about 3000 crossed to South Africa,” he said.

But it has been much higher than that.

“We had about 18000 travellers returning at some stage during the start of the World Cup,” he said.

Zimbabweans were among the victims of xenophobic attacks in 2008. They were accused of taking jobs and women from South Africans. Many went home but returned when South Africa scrapped its visa requirements.

But before the World Cup kicked off on June 10, there had already been talk of a new spate of attacks on foreigners.

Leon Ndlovu has been working in South Africa since 1990 but he decided to return to Zimbabwe.

“I went there in 1990 and worked as a gardener in Sandton and other surrounding areas before I became a security guard.

“I survived the xenophobic attacks in 2008 because most people thought I was South African.

“This time I am not prepared to face such a situation because it is known that my wife is from Zimbabwe and I don’t want us to be victimised.

“I am back home and I will only go to South Africa as a cross-border trader,” he said.

Cross-border traders, who transport food and other basics from South Africa to Zimbabwe, say business has suddenly picked up because Zimbabweans were sending many of their things home.

Mduduzi Ngwenya, of Mtshana Transporters based in Hillbrow, said: “People were sending clothes and food regularly but, since the World Cup, I have increased my trips to South Africa from two to three per week.

“I usually do so in December but now people are sending property such as televisions, wardrobes, sofas and stoves.”

Ngwenya said Bafana Bafana’s disastrous loss to Uruguay might fuel anger directed at foreigners.

“South Africans are passionate about their football but the loss against Uruguay can set the ball rolling for foreigners to get beaten up,” he said.

But Zimbabwe’s minister of foreign affairs, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, does not believe there will be any new xenophobic attacks.

“I think the South African government has instruments in place to curb such inhuman acts. I do not see xenophobia coming back,” he said.

South Africa has also taken the possibility of xenophobia breaking out seriously. The South African government spokesperson, Themba Maseko, has been quoted as saying that the South African government will not tolerate xenophobia.