ZIMBABWE will on Sunday begin the evacuation of over 1,000 of its nationals displaced during the escalating xenophobic attacks in South Africa, the country’s envoy to South Africa, Ambassador Isaac Moyo said yesterday. He said they had already arranged repatriation documents for over 1,000 Zimbabweans in the coastal city of Durban.
The attacks, spread across Durban and Johannesburg, have killed at least six people, left hundreds injured and displaced 2,000 foreigners.
Ambassador Moyo said South Africa’s Home Affairs department would transport the victims to Zimbabwe via the Beitbridge border post and hand them over to the Civil Protection Unit and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
Yesterday, they had documented 500 more victims at a temporary shelter in the Werina area of Durban, he said.
“Identification and the processing of repatriation documents has already been done,” the ambassador said.
He said they had visited some of the deserted houses in Durban where signs of ‘thorough’ ransacking were visible and with some property burnt.
“We’re seized with the issue of documenting people and providing them with food and shelter. We’ll verify the issue of deaths tomorrow (Friday),” said Moyo.
Reports say at least two Zimbabwean nationals – a woman and a toddler – are among the dead.
Ambassador Moyo said the situation around Durban was calm following an anti-xenophobia march by over 4,000 people who included religious leaders and the KwaZulu Natal provincial leaders.
He said the majority of Zimbabweans in Durban were interested in escaping to the safety of home after nearly two weeks of sleepless nights.
“We’ve had assurances from the host government that the situation is now calm but people are still sceptical because the attacks are perpetrated during the night.”
He said they were working to resolve the plight of undocumented South African women who were intent on travelling with their Zimbabwean husbands.
The assistant regional immigration in charge of Beitbridge border post, Notius Tarisai, said they were preparing to receive the returnees.
South African police say over 100 people have been arrested in Durban and Johannesburg in connection with the violence and looting of foreign-owned shops.
Meanwhile, Zanu-PF has called for the immediate cessation of attacks on foreigners saying the continued violence makes a mockery of the persistent calls for unity in the SADC region.
Cde Simon Khaya Moyo, the party’s spokesperson, said the attacks were an anti-thesis of the good relations existing between Zimbabwe and South Africa recently cemented by the signing of various economic agreements by the two countries.
“Zanu-PF is alarmed by the xenophobic violence perpetrated on foreign nationals including hundreds of Zimbabweans living in South Africa,” Cde Khaya-Moyo said.
“Our President, Cde R.G. Mugabe recently concluded a successful state visit to South Africa where a number of important agreements to advance our economies were signed. None was signed to promote xenophobia. Zanu PF and the ANC of South Africa as well as the two governments enjoy fraternal relations and the xeno wars currently underway in South Africa are shocking.”
He said South Africa has an obligation enshrined within the Vienna Declaration to ensure that it safeguards lives of all foreigners within its borders.
Regional and local civic groups also condemned the attacks.
The Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe coordinator Sally Dura said that the current wave of attacks must be stopped.
“We denounce these barbaric acts; and we encourage our governments to act!”
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum urged President Mugabe, as SADC and AU chairperson, to take urgent measures to rescue Zimbabwean citizens and African nationals whose lives are in danger.
“Whether the ongoing xenophobic violence is a result of statements by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini on March 21 or are criminal acts by a few individuals, the government of South Africa must take decisive actions to deal with xenophobia and to guarantee security for all foreign nationals in South Africa,” the Forum said.
The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) youth wing said it was saddened by the events and called upon President Jacob Zuma to put mechanisms to quell the violence.
“We count on our special relationship and call upon the South African President to be a true friend to us and fellow African governments in this critical moment. We call upon him to offer safety nets to the victims and the targeted so-called foreigners,” said spokesperson, Terence Maoneke.
MDC Renewal spokesperson Jacob Mafume said it was ironic that South Africa was failing to protect people within its borders at a time when it was clamouring to be in the United Nations Security Council.
“The narrow world view that is being exhibited in this instance has no place in a post-Mandela South Africa,” he said.
The SADC Council of NGOs urged regional leaders to act.
“The events have erupted from simmering anger and hostility in South Africa as people lash out in violence against other Africans for what they perceive as the advantages they enjoy,” the Council said.