On 7 April, we woke up to the horrific images of a pile of ashes, the remains of Elvis Nyathi (43), a Zimbabwean man, who was brutally murdered after a violent mob stoned and burnt him to death in Diepsloot, South Africa. His only crime was ‘failing to produce a passport.’ No one deserves to die merely for being undocumented and certainly not for merely being an immigrant.
We would like to offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends. May His Soul Rest in Perfect Peace.
The scale of brutality that has broken out in parts of South Africa, mainly low income, poor localities in Gauteng, has led to extreme terrorisation of foreign residents as locals target ‘illegal’ immigrants whom they demand must be deported from South Africa. The anti-immigrant sentiment singularly blames foreigners for displacing South Africans from spheres of economic life including but not limited to, jobs and housing whilst also squarely blaming them for the ever-rising crime rate, falling wages, stretching public health facilities, drug and human trafficking and squeezing social grants among other charges.
As is to be expected where vigilante groups such as Operation Dudula, All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF) and the South Africa First Party are involved, the violence has already led to a tragic loss of life.
Section 11 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, like Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that the country is party to, guarantees and protects the sanctity of life. While the locals may have legitimate grounds to raise socio and economic issues impacting on their daily lives, on account of the immigrant influx, the killing of a fellow human cannot be tolerated.
Zimbabwe’s political, economic and social crisis continues to cause intense misery among its inter-generational population. Its oldest population is wasting away, many with hardly any personal savings and pensions after years of economic turmoil and inflation. The working middle-aged population faces the daily consequences of an underperforming and badly managed economy that essentially exists to enrich the ruling elite and the politically connected.
By far one of the starkest indicators of the hopelessness and helplessness that pervades the Zimbabwe situation has been mass migration, into neighboring South Africa, with the rest scattered elsewhere including mainly in Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia and Canada.
Zimbabweans escaping the political and economic turmoil across the Limpopo arrive in South Africa without proper documentation in some cases through no fault of their own. People in Matabeleland and some parts of Midlands, for example, were affected by the Gukurahundi massacres in the dark 1983-1987 period. For children whose parents were killed or simply disappeared, obtaining national identity documents necessary to acquire a passport has been a three decades’ long nightmare.
While we acknowledge reports that the Zimbabwe’s Consul General in South Africa has begun ‘engaging the South African government at all levels,’ we remain concerned by the Government of Zimbabwe’s shocking lack of concern for the generality of Zimbabweans caught in the crosshairs of deepening socio-political and economic crisis.
It is incumbent upon the Government of Zimbabwe to:
- Realize and acknowledge its own role by immediately working on improving access to identity documents.
- Embrace far reaching governance reforms to stem further forced migration. The daily influx of Zimbabweans into South Africa through legal and illegal migration is a clear indicator of push factors that the government must urgently address.
- Address the socio-economic and political factors that are forcing Zimbabweans to cross into South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and other neighboring countries. This is the surest way of ensuring that immigration does not end up overwhelming local populations leading to deadly events such as the one currently unfolding in South Africa.
- Unreservedly engage their South African counterparts for immediate relief and protection of Zimbabwean citizens and other foreign nationals in South Africa.
We reiterate that South Africa has a critical role to play in resolving the multi-faceted crises in Zimbabwe and therefore implore the Government of South Africa to:
- Urgently show a renewed commitment to provide a permanent solution to end xenophobia.
- Uphold their important obligations towards protecting refugees and asylum seekers under international law. South Africa is party to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) and the Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (1969). The South African government is therefore mandated to ensure the safety and security of all refugees domiciled within its borders.
- Desist from making irresponsible statements that may trigger xenophobic attacks against Zimbabweans and other foreign nationals.
- Galvanize a regional response by putting Zimbabwe back on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) agenda and ensuring that Zimbabwe follows rational economic and political policies.
- Swiftly intervene and put in place long-term strategies to reduce inequality in South Africa. This will go a long way in addressing the toxic xenophobic feelings that the region can no longer ignore.
The regional body must take a clear stand against the erosion of constitutionalism and the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
Source: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition