Xenophobic attacks spook Zimbabweans
The xenophobic attacks in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, last week have rattled Zimbabwean nationals in other parts of the country, with some opting to return home for fear the attacks might spread.
Monica Shoko, a cross-border trader who survived the xenophobic attacks in May 2008 that left 62 people dead, said she was not taking any chances.
"I was caught up in the violence the last time around. This time I have decided I don't want to be a sitting duck," she said.
Shoko's return to Harare was sparked by fears the xenophobic attacks might gather momentum in the township of Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, where she lives.
"There is a shutdown in Alexandra and some of the protesters are after foreigners. They are demanding we leave the township before the elections," she said.
In May last year, Amnesty International said that 10 years after the outbreak of xenophobic violence, refugees and migrants were still facing daily discrimination and living in constant fear of physical attacks.
Gershom Shoko, 40, a machine operator at a construction company in Mbombela in Mpumalanga, is among those who decided to return to Zimbabwe.
"Although I was not harassed or beaten up, it is generally not safe for Zimbabweans, especially Shona-speaking people like me. Maybe the situation will return to normal after the elections," he said.
Zimbabwe's ambassador to SA, David Hamadziripi, on Thursday said the embassy was aware of two cases of Zimbabwean nationals directly caught up in the violence linked to the attacks in Durban.
"In discussions with our nationals here, we get the sense these violent attacks bring fear, uncertainty and loss of valuables," he said in an e-mailed response to queries.
"We are encouraged that the government of SA is taking this issue seriously."
He said SA's international relations & co-operation minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, and police minister Bheki Cele assured diplomats "security for all people who live in SA".
The chairperson of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, Gabriel Shumba, said the Southern African Development Community had to put the issue in the spotlight at its next meeting.
"A frank discussion needs to take place, and we implore the South African government to investigate why there is a recurrence, especially during elections. In the meantime we are assisting our people by issuing early-warning alerts when necessary," he said.
- Additional reporting by Sharon Mazingaizo..