SA home affairs in denial over Zimbabwean refugees

source: SW Radio Africa
By Tererai Karimakwenda
02 August, 2007

The growing number of Zimbabweans flooding into South Africa has clearly become a serious problem for the government of President Thabo Mbeki, yet officials there continue to deny there is a problem next door in Zimbabwe. SABC news reported on Thursday that the department of home affairs said “Zimbabweans streaming into South Africa cannot be classified as refugees, as they are not facing persecution in their home country.” The report also said the United Nations High Commission for Refugees agrees with this, saying it is not yet critical. The evidence on the ground shows otherwise.

The news comes on the same day that 300 protestors marched to the office of the Premier of Gauteng Province, to deliver a petition for President Mbeki urging him to reform the government’s policies towards Zimbabwean refugees. Also on Thursday The Cape Times reported that SA Police had called on farmers near the northern border to stop their vigilante campaign against Zimbabweans. A Sky News report in the UK on Wednesday had shown the border farmers hunting down desperate Zimbabweans who are cutting down the farm fences and killing game for food, as they escape hunger and persecution in Zimbabwe. And last week three Zimbabweans were stabbed and injured in Port Elizabeth, in an incident that was attributed to xenophobia.

MP Mark Lowe, the Home Affairs spokesperson for South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance party, said clearly there is a problem but if the government of South Africa admits this then they will be admitting their policy of quiet diplomacy has failed. He added: “And they are obviously not going to do that. So we have this crazy situation where we have thousands of people coming across the border every day and the government saying there is no need to provide facilities for them.” Lowe explained that South Africa’s Home Affairs admitted Thursday that there are a growing number of Zimbabweans crossing over, but they are disputing the numbers. He said the problem has [continue reading]

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