Zim embassy in SA incapacitated … …Mission lacks resources to assist in danger of xenophobia

Albert Chavhunduka

The Zimbabwe Embassy in South Africa has claimed it is financially incapacitated to assist its nationals amid increasing xenophobic attacks against Zimbabweans and other foreigners living and working in the neighbouring country.

Last week, thousands of foreign nationals were displaced in Bredasdorp after homes belonging to Zimbabweans and Malawian nationals were destroyed, leaving others with bruised limbs in violent clashes which erupted in Bredasdorp, in the Western Cape.

The controversial anti-foreigner movement, Operation Dudula, is in the eye of the storm of threats and campaigns against mostly African immigrants in South Africa.

Zimbabweans have been among the most targeted.

Unfortunately for them, Zimbabwe’s diplomatic  mission there will offer not much help.

“We have neither financial resources nor logistical capacity to provide support to those in need of food or shelter or both. We are able to support with transportation, those who may choose to return to Zimbabwe,” said David Hamadziripi, Zimbabwe’s envoy to the southern neighbour.

Hamadziripi the embassy was working together with the Consulate in Capetown and other relevant authorities to offer assistance to the affected communities.

“We are very concerned about those incidents and we have sent teams to both locations of the recent incidents. We are, through the Consulate in Capetown, in contact with both our nationals in the affected communities and the relevant local authorities in those locations with a view to extending the assistance that we may be able to provide in the light of our constrained resources and capabilities,” he said.

The situation continues to be volatile with Operational Dudula gathering steam, amid political complexities in South Africa’s politics that is increasingly seeing the immigration issue with a political eye.

Nhlanhla “Lux” Dlamini, the self-proclaimed leader of Operation Dudula, was recently released from prison on bail after he had been arrested for a litany of charges including a raid on the house of a member of one political party.

The face of Operation Dudula..Nhlanhla Dlamini

In a move that is likely to fan xenophobic attacks against foreigners in South Africa, Operation Dudula had a stamp of approval from various political parties in South Africa including the ruling ANC, which concedes that as the governing party-it has been reluctant to address the immigration issue in the neighbouring country.

Ironically, President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the leader of the ANC, spoke strongly against attacks on foreign nationals during his address at an event to mark Human Rights Day.

Chief Executive Officer of the African Diaspora Global Network, Vusimuzi Sibanda criticised the ANC for  condoning the violence taking place in South Africa and for making volatile comments that are likely to trigger more attacks against foreign nationals.

Blowing hot and cold…South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has failed to take a decisive action
against Operation Dudula

“The relationship with the ANC and comments from the S.A minister of Home Affairs are very worrying and they appear to be condoning and increasing the rate of these attacks. Operation Dudula is seemingly backed by the ANC from the comments we seem to be getting and the association does exacerbate the situation,” Sibanda said.

“But on the one end, we see that parties like the Democratic Alliance (DA) as well as the police and even the Minister of Police has distanced himself from the education roadshows by Dudula which means that we will still get a bit of support from the police that are very unhappy with these vigilante activities.

” So it is getting a bit hopeful somewhere, since we are getting a bit of help from the police and perpetrators getting arrested and we are hoping that more can be arrested to deter these xenophobic activities.”

Sibanda further said they are proactively working with government and other human rights civil society groups in South Africa to offer assistance and temporary shelter to victims of the xenophobic attacks.

“We’ve about a thousand people that have been displaced, that are financially stranded and need assistance to get home or get some kind of shelter. In that case what we are doing is, we’re working with local organizations to temporarily shelter the people and try to see if we can get other organizations like Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia,” he said.

“It’s a new organisation that we have just formed that brings a coalition of human rights civil society organizations that try to quell and assist in xenophobia related issues.

“So we are trying to identify places where they can get accommodation but also engaging proactively with government, the locals and the police to ensure that these attacks are stopped.”

Foreign nationals in South Africa, among them undocumented Zimbabweans have been at the receiving end of attacks and violence meted out by vigilante groups like Operation Dudula, which accuse them of taking their jobs.
South Africa’s ministry of Home Affairs introduced the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP), first issued in 2009 and renewed every four years, ending in December.
However, the ministry revoked this and now stipulated that holders of the permits must now “regularise their stay through normal immigration laws” before the end of 2022.

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