Zimbabweans in South Africa ‘fear’ Zanu PF – Mohadi

HARARE – Some Zimbabweans in South Africa did not get special dispensation permits when these were introduced in 2010 as they thought it was meant to identify them for persecution by the ruling party, Zanu PF, Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi has said.

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Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi

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Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a Zanu PF Matabeleland South meeting in Gwanda on Tuesday, Mohadi said the issuing of the permits to Zimbabweans was largely an issue of the South African authorities but government would continue to engage them on the matter.

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“We asked for a special dispensation in 2010 to register Zimbabweans so that their stay in South Africa could get legitimacy, but many people did not come out because they believed the propaganda that Zanu PF wanted to identify them and persecute them,” he said.

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“But we wanted to take stock of Zimbabweans in the diaspora.  So only 250 000 got the permits which expired last year, some in October, November and December and they now need to re-apply.”

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It is estimated that three million Zimbabweans, seeking greener pastures, are working in South Africa.

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The aim of the exercise was “to create a record of Zimbabweans who had, until then, been living illegally in South Africa and was therefore  intended to provide an amnesty to Zimbabweans who had been using fraudulent South African identity documents” to get jobs as they fled the decade-long  economic crisis in Zimbabwe”.

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Mohadi said government would continue to engage South African authorities following the expiry of the December 31 2014 deadline for the application for the special dispensation permits.

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Holders of the permits would be eligible to stay in South Africa until the end of 2017.

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He said going forward government would discuss with South African authorities to be able to have an exercise similar to the 2010 one more regularly.

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“We realise that people will always be going and coming back from South Africa,” said Mohadi.

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Zimbabwe and South Africa enjoy historical ties that link people from the two countries, with some like the Venda being separated by the Limpompo River which was set by the colonialists as the boundary between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

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Meanwhile, the mass return of Zimbabweans living in South Africa has triggered a series of illegal border jumping activities that have resulted in thousands of Zimbabweans being arrested along the Limpopo River and inside South Africa.

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Two people yet to be identified also drowned on Monday while a dozen others have been rescued as they tried to cross the crocodile-infested Limpopo River, South African Police Services for Limpopo province Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi has said.

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Mulaudzi said Musina Police holding cells have, of late, been overwhelmed by hundreds of illegal migrants, most of them Zimbabweans who have been arrested as they tried to illegally cross the Limpopo River, while others were arrested along the N1 highway.

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“The numbers keep going up everyday despite many being deported. We wouldn’t come up with the exact figures or the population composition because they are just too many,” he said.

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Contrary to media reports that the South African government has embarked on a “full scale war” against illegal migrants,  Mulaudzi said the current arrests were not something new as it was peculiar during and after the festive season when undocumented migrants try to find their way back into South Africa after spending the festive season with their families.

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“We are not at full war with border jumpers as some have said, there is nothing of that sort, it is the case all year. That we are willy-nilly arresting Zimbabweans is not true,”Mulaudzi said.

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He discouraged people from crossing the border illegally, saying it comes with lots of risks that “sadly lead to loss of life”.

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“We discourage people from crossing the border illegally as they are risking their lives. Two people have drowned this week while others were saved from the Limpopo River. They also risk being eaten by crocodiles, and even after crossing, they are at the mercy of the gumagumas,” he said.