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Xenophobia: SA workers flee Mozambique

Several international companies in Mozambique report that their South African workers are leaving the country after the wave of violence against “foreigners” in Durban.

Among those affected is South Africa's Sasol Petroleum, which manages natural gas Pande-Temane concession in Inhambane as well as South African construction company Kentz, which is hired by Brazil's Vale company, mining coal in Tete. This information was released by Folha de Maputo on Thursday.

Police tackle an armed foreigner who was among the crowd gathered in retaliation to xenophobic attacks in Mahatma Gandhi (Point) Road in Durban. Photo: Gcina Ndwalane, Daily News. Credit: INDEPENDENT MEDIA

"Information reaching us from Inhambane indicate that since Wednesday South Africans workers (at Sasol) are packing their bags to go home." It said that Mateus Zimba, Sasol's resident director in Mozambique, told Folha de Maputo he was "managing some situations”, and then hung up.

A legal source said all South African workers from construction company Kentz South Africa, hired by the Brazilian company Vale to mine coal in Tete, were "chased" or had chosen to return home, as well as those working for Moma Mining in Nampula.

So far as could be established, there has been no violence against any South African worker in Mozambique. "All South Africans working in Mozambique have work permits etc... So they are known to the government in Maputo," said a senior manager working for Kentz.

Simon Kaya Moyo, a Zanu-PF spokesman, said the ruling party was “alarmed” by the attacks on foreign nationals “including hundreds of Zimbabweans living in South Africa”.

“Our president RG Mugabe recently concluded a very successful state visit to South Africa where a number of important agreements to advance our economies were signed. None was signed to promote xenophobia.”

Zimbabwe's information minister, Jonathan Moyo, who controls much of the state media, and crafted a set of tough right-wing laws against media, took to Twitter this week, lashing out at violence against “foreigners” in Durban. “If the gruesome xenophobic attacks in SA were in Zim, by now there would be cacophonic calls for an urgent meeting of UN Security Council!”

Journalist Delia Robertson replied to Moyo: "Disingenuous. This not State & ruling party deployed against own citizens, as 'Murambatsvina', 'Gukurahundi' & post March 2008 elections.” Zanu-PF admitted it killed thousands of opposition supporters in Matabeleland massacres known as Gukurahundi from 1983, and ordered police smash thousands of urban homes and small businesses in 2005, in a campaign called Murambatsvina, and deployed loyalists to kill and maim opposition supporters post elections March 2008.

Zimbabwe's persistent reputation is that it is intolerant of those seeking asylum or work permits, particularly those employed by non-governmental organisations and foreign journalists from Western countries and South Africa. Many South African exiles struggled to acquire residence permits in Zimbabwe prior to unbanning of the ANC in 1990.

Zimbabwe says its embassy staff in Pretoria would arrange transport home for any citizen affected by the violence in Durban. Mozambique says citizens fearful of xenophobia in South Africa should make their way to Matola, near Maputo, where they will be provided with assistance.

Independent Foreign Service

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