Zimbabweans continue flocking to S Africa despite xenophobic attacks

June 4th, 2008 - 5:02 am ICT by IANS  

By Fakir Hassen
Johannesburg, June 3 (IANS) Zimbabweans appear to be undeterred about migrating to South Africa, despite 30,000 of their compatriots having returned to their home country in the wake of xenophobic violence across South Africa in the past month. With 15,000 new Zimbabwean migrants arriving monthly, there has been no change in the average movement across the border, according to the NGOs monitoring the situation.

“The movement of people in and out of the country is as in previous months,” Michael Malindi of the Border Control Operations Coordinating Committee told the daily Pretoria News Tuesday.

This claim was supported by Lesley Warren, who runs a business close to the Zimbabwe-South Africa border, who said the xenophobic attacks and repatriation promises by the Zimbabwean government had not had any serious impact on the influx of illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe.

But police at the border disputed this, saying that the number of people crossing into South Africa had been steadily declining, even before the xenophobic violence.

“There is a decrease in the number of those entering through the border line and it has been there before the xenophobic attacks,” Senior Superintendent Lindela Mashigo told the Pretoria News.

Beleaguered President Robert Mugabe had promised land to returning Zimbabwean citizens who had fled to neighbouring South Africa to escape the political violence and economic crisis in Zimbabwe, but reports indicated that although many were returning, it was not because of this promise.

“We are going back because we would rather die of poverty and hunger at home than be killed in South Africa for nothing,” one returning refugee said earlier this week.

Zimbabweans and Mozambicans bore the brunt of the suffering in the attacks in various townships, where locals turned on citizens of other African countries, accusing them of taking jobs and housing intended for the locals.

In the ensuing violence, 62 people were killed, hundreds injured, and authorities are now wrestling with caring for thousands more who have been left destitute.

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