BY REX MPHISA
THE body of a Zimbabwean man who died during the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa and 76 Zimbabweans affected by the mayhem, were yesterday repatriated back home through Beitbridge.
The 76 were the first batch of the 171 who are expected to come back home voluntarily.
Of those, 26 were children, including the deceased Isaac Sithole’s six-month-old baby, Fortunate. About 72 were aboard two buses, one headed for Harare and the other for Bulawayo.
The buses will drop those headed for smaller centres along the way. Fares to complete their journeys and pocket money for food were provided.
“Along the way from Johannesburg, a number of service stations provided us with food,” Stella Maphosa from Murewa, one of the repatriates said.
The buses were organised by the Zimbabwean embassy in South Africa for those who expressed willingness to return home.
Most repatriates did not have any property after it was burnt or destroyed by rioting South Africans.
Sithole’s widow, Lydia Chimbirimbiri, her brother Henry and the late Sithole’s brothers rode in one car towing a trailer with his remains.
“We are going to Mapungwana village in Chipinge where he will be laid to rest,” one of the brothers, Langton said.
Lydia was withdrawn, saying she had accepted her fate and was downcast during the interview.
Sithole was slain and set alight in Natalspruit where his neighbours for eight years turned swords on him in attacks that have received universal condemnation.
South Africans are accusing foreigners of taking their space and filling up jobs for inferior wages. The repatriates arrived just after midnight. They were all quickly cleared at the border post and sent to the International Migration Organisation camp at Beitbridge Railway Station.
Government this week reactivated the centre for victims of xenophobia with capacity to handle 1 000 repatriates.
“We just need help to start again, we lost everything,” said Lorraine Moyo from Mberengwa, who was forced out of the Mandela location of Ekhurunel in Johannesburg.
Beitbridge district co-ordinator Sikhangezile Mafu led a team of officials at the border post counselling repatriates.
Some three million Zimbabweans are believed to be residing in South Africa as economic refugees.