Zimbabweans again flock to South Africa despite attacks (Lead)

June 4th, 2008 - 6:21 pm ICT by IANS  

By Fakir Hassen
Johannesburg, June 4 (IANS) Zimbabweans are migrating to South Africa again although 30,000 of them have returned home following xenophobic violence across the country in the past month. With 15,000 new Zimbabwean migrants arriving monthly, there has been no change in the average movement across the border, say 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.

Supporting the claim was Lesley Warren, who runs a business close to the Zimbabwe-South Africa border. He 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 and it has been (so) before the (violence),” Senior Superintendent Lindela Mashigo told the Pretoria News.

Beleaguered President Robert Mugabe promised land to returning Zimbabwean citizens who had earlier fled to neighbouring South Africa to escape political violence and economic crisis in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabweans explained that they were not returning home because of Mugabe’s promises.

“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.

Zimbabweans and Mozambicans bore the brunt of 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 violence, 62 people were killed and hundreds injured. The authorities are now wrestling with caring for thousands more who have been left destitute.

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