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Zimbabwe Told To Leave South Africa Go Back To Before End Of 2022


Doreen Chasi lost her brother and husband in South Africa’s 2008 xenophobic attacks in which nearly 100 foreign nationals were killed. This year, it all seems to be happening all over again.




“They destroyed my stall,” Chasi told openDemocracy. “All the produce I had just purchased for resale was confiscated. That reminded me of the 2008 attacks. They have added salt to a wound which was starting to heal. I am so terrified.”



Chasi is a Zimbabwean immigrant in South Africa’s Soweto Township. She spoke to this website following January’s spate of violence against foreign nationals in South Africa.



The attacks, meted out by vigilantes calling themselves Operation Dudula, started in Soweto towards the end of 2021. They have spread to other townships, including Alexandra, Youville, Hillbrow, Tembisa and Daveyton.




“Foreigners must leave South Africa and go back to their countries. They should leave us with peace. Pack your stock and leave,” Operation Dudula spokesperson, Agnes Malatji told openDemocracy.



Gabriel Arumando of Mozambique who came to look for employment in South Africa over 10 years ago also knows the danger of such sentiments all too well.




“In 2008 I lost my three-month-old son who was burned to death when they set my shack alight. Now they have started again,” he told openDemocracy in South Africa’s Alexandra township.




The immediate trigger for the current wave of xenophobia appears to be a decision by the South African government to end a 12-year programme that has allowed more than 200,000 Zimbabweans to live in the country without meeting stringent immigration laws. Since then, foreigners are being strongly warned to leave South Africa and go back to their respective countries before end of this year.




The Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) were first issued in 2009 and were renewed every four years, ending in December. Instead, the ministry says, holders of the permits must now “regularise their stay through normal immigration laws” before the end of 2022.




“Since the day the minister announced that we have 12 months to legalise our stay, we have been threatened, harassed and humiliated by locals,” said Zimbabwean Fortune Ndebele, who lives in Alexandra Township. “They are promising us hell on earth when the grace period lapses.” Alexandra was one of the worst-hit areas in the 2008 xenophobic violence.




But beyond the immediate trigger is an unemployment crisis. “We believe the root of the problem is that the ANC government has implemented macro-economic policies which have failed to transform the lives of our people,” said Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, spokesperson of the National Union Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) – one of the biggest labour unions in the country.

Robert Tapfumaneyi