Zimbabweans flock back amid xenophobia rumours


Zimbabweans who fled the country to escape political and economic turmoil are reportedly flocking back home from South Africa amid rising fears they could be xenophobic attacks after the Fifa World Cup ends on Sunday.
There were reports this week that Zimbabweans scattered all of over South Africa were boarding any available transport to reach Beitbridge Border Post to escape possible attacks, congesting the exit point in the process.
Fears of violence have heightened with reports that a Zimbabwean man was on Tuesday thrown off a moving train by five South African men in Cape Town. The man, whose identity was given as Reason Wandi, was lucky to survive the attack. Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa Simon Khaya Moyo said he was hopeful there would not be xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
Close to 60 African immigrants were killed two years ago when mobs went on a rampage, attacking foreigners whom they accused of taking jobs they should have had.
Assurances by the South African Police Minister Nathi Mtetwa that they would not tolerate any form of violence yesterday appeared to have done little to calm the situation. A refugees’ rights group yesterday told NewsDay from South Africa that a much larger number of Zimbabweans were crossing back into Zimbabwe than at any other time of the year. People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty (Passop), a South African refugee rights group, yesterday said a very large number of Zimbabweans, leaving South Africa.
Braam Hanekom, coordinator of Passop said although there did not appear to be an organised campaign to attack foreigners, a strong rumour had engulfed the country. Hanekom attributed the movement of Zimbabweans to “rumours started by people with their own agendas”.
He said the army had been deployed in the townships to assist the police in the event of such attacks “so the chances of people getting injured are very minimal”. Hanekon said his organisation did not have exact figures of Zimbabweans leaving South Africa but “a very large number of Zimbabweans are leaving now”.
A Zimbabwean staying in Durban, Slyia Maenda, said: “The xenophobic threats are getting serious especially for those staying in the shacks and high density areas. But as for those in the suburbs, the threats are not serious.”
Evlyn Makunike, another Zimbabwean based in Johannesburg said the situation was very scary, especially for those staying in the townships.
Another Zimbabwean based in the South African town of Nelspruit, close to the Mozambican border, Dawn Mapfumo, said she had also heard such reports but they were concentrated in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.