Cape Town - South Africa’s borders have seen an increase in the number of Zimbabweans escaping the country in the run-up to Robert Mugabe’s inauguration, due to take place on Thursday.
This is according to several Zimbabwean civil rights and political groups.
Official observers for the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum said they had witnessed attacks on people who had voted for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which was pushing Zimbabweans to the border. The organisation had about 50 observers in place.
“Within the first few days of the announcement of the election results, borders were crowded,” said forum chairman Gabriel Shumba.
“Zanu-PF is saying they will change the Zimbabwean constitution and move back to the Zimbabwean dollar. This is why people are hoarding food, stampeding banks to withdraw their money and running to the border.”
African Centre for Migration and Society director Loren Landau, however, said he did not expect a long-term increase in asylum applications because “those who are most vulnerable have already left”.
An MDC statement cited various cases of “perceived MDC supporters” being evicted from homes, fired from jobs, made victims of arson and targeted by Zanu-PF militia groups.
“So serious is the situation that children, women and the elderly have fled and are living in the mountains and other places of refuge without food and shelter, creating one of the worst humanitarian crises since 2008,” the statement said.
MDC SA information and publicity secretary Kumbirai Muchemwa said Mugabe’s re-election would be a major “push-factor for Zimbabweans”. “If anything, this election has made this worse.”
Anthony Mateti, the Zimbabwean political refugee and outreach officer for People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty, said he expected a similar influx in asylum-seekers to that seen after the 2008 poll.
The feeling among Zimbabweans in Cape Town this week was of disappointment.
“He was supposed to retire,” said refugee Tichaona Nkiwane about Mugabe. “I can’t say I’m going back. What am I going to do there? I had to go away to find a job.”
Zimbabwean citizen Felisters Simon said the election was undermined by vote-rigging. “We were prepared to go home. For Mugabe it’s time to rest. Zuma must stop this nonsense of supporting him.”
However, Zimbabweans Mavis Naro and Faith Zhou were glad that the “father of the nation” had won.
“The elections they are fair,” said Naro.
Muchemwa said the SADC report on the election was a “joke”. - Cape Times