Thupeyo Muleya in DURBAN, South Africa
THE first batch of 407 Zimbabweans who were displaced during the xenophobia-motivated attacks in the Chatsworth area of Durban in South Africa left for Zimbabwe last night by road via Beitbridge Border Post in a convoy of six luxury buses and a haulage truck.
They are expected to arrive in Zimbabwe late today.
These were part of the more than 3 000 people housed in nine tents at the Chatsworth holding camp with Mozambican nationals for the past seven days.
The transport was provided by the Government of Zimbabwe to repatriate the victims and their luggage.
The group, comprising 112 woman, 92 children and 203 men, was enthusiastic to go home. The Zimbabwe Embassy assisted them with food and transport.
Speaking during the send-off ceremony, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa, Mr Isaac Moyo, said the victims had gone through basic vetting to confirm their nationality.
Several people including South African women tried their luck to claim Zimbabwean citizenship without success.
“We have hired buses to transport our people from Durban to Zimbabwe by road. They will enter through Beitbridge Border Post where a reception and support centre has already been set up in preparation for their onward transportation and integration at their respective homes,” said Mr Moyo.
He said today they will be processing repatriation documents for over 400 people at the Phoenix holding centre which houses Zimbabweans, Malawians, Kenyans and Batswana.
“These will be repatriated to Zimbabwe by the end of the day today or on Tuesday morning. We have since addressed them and told them what we expect from them so that we can assist them,” he said.
Mr Moyo added that he had been invited to attend an Imbizo called by the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini and other traditional leaders to find a lasting solution to the ongoing xenophobia-motivated attacks on foreigners.
He urged Zimbabweans living in South Africa to be calm as they were engaging the host government at various strategic and diplomatic levels.
“Those who feel the pressure should not be anxious but seek assistance from the embassy in Pretoria or the consulate in Johannesburg. They must generally know that the Zimbabwean Government is concerned with what is happening to them,” he said.
He also commended the host government for assisting during the identification and documentation of those who needed repatriation.
It is reported that close to 100 people have been arrested in connection with the attacks that have left six people dead and thousands of immigrants homeless.
African Union and Sadc Chairman President Mugabe has condemned the anti-African immigrant violence in South Africa, imploring Africans to treat each other with dignity.
Addressing thousands of people at the 35th Independence Day Anniversary celebrations at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on Saturday, President Mugabe said the violent scenes seen in South Africa should never occur again..
“I want now to express our sense of shock and disgust as we abhor the incident that happened in Durban where some five or six Africans were burned to death deliberately by some members of the South African Zulu community.
“We understand it was a protest against the influx into South Africa of or by citizens from neighbouring countries. The act of treating other Africans in that horrible way cannot be condoned by anyone and whether these are followers of the Zulu King Zwelithini or the followers of some other misled members of the South African community, we say on our own behalf and behalf of Sadc, as indeed on behalf of the African Union, that (that) must never happen again, never happen again in South Africa or any other country.
“Our own African people, on the African continent, must be treated with dignity.”
The President said the matter could have been dealt with in more dignified ways if the xenophobes felt strongly about the presence of foreigners in their country.
He commended South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma for denouncing the violence, and said Government was working to repatriate affected Zimbabweans.