Stephen Mpofu, Perspective
SOUTH Africans have declared virtual war on Zimbabweans and other undocumented foreign immigrants in that country, charging the foreigners with various acts of criminal activities and demanding that their leaders chuck out the foreigners.
The aliens are accused of taking away jobs from South Africans while at the same time indulging in violent activities such as rape and theft.
In recent interviews in South Africa with a representative of foreign radio station, two Zimbabweans accused their hosts of double-standards, saying that South Africans committed the same crimes as those attributed to Zimbabweans and other foreigners but went scot-free as though they were beyond the reach of their native laws.
As the interviewer, himself a Zimbabwean, was busy interviewing a Zimbabwean representative of diasporans identified as Mr Sibanda and Zimbabwean, angry voices of South Africans chanting against foreigners could be heard in the background.
He asked Sibanda to explain in both Ndebele and Shona — obviously for the benefit of other Zimbabweans back home — just what trials and tribulations foreigners without documents authorising their stay in South Africa were experiencing day in and day out.
Mr Sibanda said South Africans were playing double standards by blaming foreigners for violent crimes while compatriots who committed the same crimes remained untouchable.
He cited an incident in which South African criminals sprayed bullets on patrons at a bar in Soweto but that no hullaballoo was heard, while minor crimes by foreigners provoked uproars across that country.
Another Zimbabwean interviewee identified as an academic working in South Africa accused some South African political leaders of encouraging fellow citizens to turn against foreign residents.
He claimed that those same leaders were so inefficient that some South Africans who badly needed certain documents died without being issued the requisite papers.
Not so long ago a Zimbabwean, Elvis Nyathi, was murdered by members of a vigilante group after failing to pay them a bribe for possessing no document authorising his stay in that country.
A build-up of the hate campaign by South Africans against foreigners with no documents of their residence in that country might lead to widespread violence against the aliens if the South African government does not speedily read the riot act to restore peace and stability.
No immediate comment was available from our Ministry of Foreign Affairs on what measures the Zimbabwean Government was taking for the safety of Zimbabweans in the neighbouring country in the wake of the hate campaign there against immigrants.
Better still, Sadc leaders might wish to sit around the table together to find ways of stabilising the environment surrounding undocumented immigrants in one member state of a development community where peace and stability and cooperation sum up the fundamentals for regional economic advancement as parameters of the African continent as a whole.
But you (yes, you) come to think of it: the crusade by black South Africans against fellow blacks, Zimbabweans in particular, is tragically ironic in that since time immemorial, when the Boers were in power in South Africa, blacks from this country as well as elsewhere in the region trooped to South Africa to work in mines when blacks in that country sat back with their arms folded or spent much of their time in gigs apparently hoping that apartheid rule would render it self extinct without indigenous blacks expending their energies on that country’s development.
(People from this country were, for instance, recruited by Wenela to work in that company’s mines right up to the time of Zimbabwe’s independence 42 years ago.)
Other foreigners also went to South Africa in large numbers for work or in transit to the West, as in the case of people from the Horn of Africa.
A notable figure among those from this region who jumped the Limpopo River border east of Beitbridge to South Africa was none other than the man who later founded the present independent state of Malawi.
Kamuzu Hastings Banda stayed briefly in South Africa before proceeding to the United States where he advanced his education after which he went on to West Africa and later back home to lead Nyasaland, then part of the Federation of Rhodesia — Southern Rhodesia — our country and Northern Rhodesia now Zambia – in the early 60s.
Today Zimbabweans who failed to get jobs at home jump the border or transit through Beitbridge border post to look for work in the neighbouring state with many educated young Zimbabweans performing menial jobs such as road maintenance or the likes with women hired for domestic work — jobs shunned by South Africans among other forms of labour.
Add to the above Zimbabweans from southern parts of our country who do their shopping in South Africa might eventually also fall foul to South African haters of foreigners.
With the contents of the above discourse in purview, what precisely are the parameters of African continental, or regional economic, unity?
The mind boggles.