JOHANNESBURG – Over 1 500 Zimbabweans were expected to pass the Beitbridge border post yesterday following xenophobic violence in South Africa.
Zimbabwean nationals indicated to President Jacob Zuma on Saturday that they wished to return home in the wake of attacks on foreigners in and around KwaZulu-Natal and Johannesburg this past week.
Two Zimbabweans died in those clashes.
The Civil Protection Unit said it had made arrangements to facilitate the arrival and ferrying of people from Beitbridge to their respective places.
South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba told Eyewitness News xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng had ruined South Africa’s relations with the rest of the continent and its reputation as a humanitarian country in the international community.
The minister yesterday observed living conditions in the Chatsworth displacement camp where the tents were overcrowded with little privacy for women, and bathrooms were flooded, leading to many of the people demanding to go back to their countries.
A furious Gigaba said the latest wave of attacks on African immigrants in the country had undone much of the hard work by the government to establish relationships across the continent.
“It has ruined our relations with the rest of the continent, it’s ruined our relationship with immigrants that are living in South Africa and it’s something that we’re very concerned about,” he said.
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Gigaba said the fact that African immigrants were being targeted had made the situation worse.
Sandra Ngwenya, a chicken seller from Zimbabwe who had left her Alexandra home for a Gift of the Givers camp in Johannesburg, said her neighbours said: “We are going to go door to door, taking your stuff and beating you. So we want you to go back to your country.”
Ngwenya, who has lived in South Africa since 2006 and married a South African, said she left her two young children with cousins and hoped to go home soon.
“They are saying it’s quiet. The police are all over the place. I want to go and check on our stuff,” Ngwenya, whose husband works in a mine outside Johannesburg and planned to return to check on his family, said.
Gigaba said more than 300 people had been arrested in connection with the wave of violence against immigrants.
At least six people have died in xenophobic attacks in Durban, with violence spreading to other areas. Gigaba, warned perpetrators that they would be punished