Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter
Sadc chairperson President Mugabe yesterday called on Sadc member-states to put mechanisms in place to ensure their citizens flocking South Africa return to take up opportunities at home. This follows a spate of xenophobic attacks by South Africans against black African immigrants mainly from Sadc countries which began earlier this month.
President Mugabe made the remarks during a media briefing at the end of the Extraordinary Sadc Summit held in Harare yesterday.
South African President Jacob Zuma had earlier briefed regional leaders about the barbaric attacks in his country that left at least seven people dead according to official figures amid concerns the toll could be higher.
President Mugabe, who is also the African Union chairperson, said most of the people who flocked to South Africa were not being pushed by their governments.
“They are people who voluntarily go to South Africa,” he said as he fielded questions from the floor. “They think South Africa is the heaven. Our heaven in Southern Africa. Yes, it’s more highly developed, true. But go there and you will see that the Africans in the country are still very low. It’s the whites who are living better lives. More advanced life. In Soweto, the lives of people are very elementary. Then there are people from out here who think there is heaven in South Africa and decide to go to South Africa. They make the situation of the Africans there worse.”
President Mugabe said while South Africa had no problems employing professionals, the majority of immigrants were border jumpers.
President Mugabe cited Matabeleland South in Zimbabwe as one area where there was emigration to South Africa by a majority of men who had an instinct of crossing the Limpopo.
He said illegal immigrants used unprecedented means to acquire South African documentation.
President Mugabe said Government had repatriated about 800 Zimbabweans from South Africa following the xenophobic attacks.
He said some of the repatriated people had indicated that they would still return to South Africa regardless of the violence against foreigners there.
“Even after that incident which we saw of people being burnt, the South Africans say no ‘this was not a true incident of the day. It happened in the 1980s, long ago. It did not happen just recently’. Anyway, we thought it happened recently and we are still convinced it happened recently,” said President Mugabe, drawing laughter from the delegates. He said some of the immigrants engaged in robberies, making it the duty of all the countries in Sadc to help in stopping the influx.
“It’s one for us, we the neighbouring countries, to resolve,” said President Mugabe. “Our people should not have the instinct of rushing into South Africa. Even vanoenda kuma university, they want to remain there. I don’t know what is attractive. They get there, they don’t want to come back home. They want to work in South Africa,” he said.