Harare – CALLS for the removal of Zimbabwean immigrants from some areas of South Africa – described by President Cyril Ramaphosa as “disturbing” yesterday – have intensified pressure on President Emerson Mnangagwa to quickly turn around the economy to offer better economic conditions for locals.
The mob killing of a Zimbabwean man, Elvis Nyathi, in Diepsloot last week, has sparked a wave of anti-foreigner, or xenophobic, sentiment across some South African communities. The xenophobic sentiments, fuelled by anger over violent crimes such as rape, robberies and murder, are being directed at Zimbabweans settled in South Africa.
Ramaphosa said immigrants were being “stopped on the street by private citizens and being forced to produce identification to verify their immigration status”, while some political leaders are “making unscientific statements about immigrants to exploit people’s grievances” for political gain. This was worsening the situation, with the tally of deaths from the crisis in Diepsloot now topping seven in just a few days.
“Contrary to what is claimed by some anti-immigration groupings and individuals, the perpetrators of crime are both black and white, male and female, foreigner and citizen,” said Ramaphosa. “Crime, not migrants, is the common enemy we must work together to defeat.”
While he called for the attacks on Zimbabweans to stop, Ramaphosa also stated that illegal immigration was undesirable for South Africa’s economy.
He said: “Illegal migration poses a risk to South Africa’s security, stability and economic progress. Illegal migration affects service delivery and places additional burdens on essential services such as health care and education.”
With Zimbabwe’s economy in free fall, more Zimbabweans continue to cross the Limpopo to look for better employment opportunities. But with South Africa’s own unemployment situation also worsening to above 35 percent, tensions have been escalating, and this has resulted in the violence that has emerged.
Economists say Zimbabwe’s economy can be turned around if the fight against corruption is prioritised and economic fundamentals are addressed. They also said addressing the monetary sector would help attract investment and grow the economy, creating more employment opportunities for Zimbabweans in the process.
While Zimbabwe's economy was expected to grow by 3.5 percent this year and by 3 percent in 2023, its inflation reached 837 percent year-on- year by July 2020, the International Monetary Fund said last month.
The IMF said Zimbabwe experienced severe exogenous shocks, including Cyclone Idai, a protracted drought and the Covid-19 pandemic during 2019-2020, which along with policy missteps in 2019, led to a deep recession and high inflation, the IMF said.
Chiedza Madzima, the head of operational risk for Fitch Solutions, said via email: “The issue with Zimbabwe is monetary policy, specifically growth in money supply, foreign currency illiquidity and concomitant distortions in the market versus auction rates, debt monetisation, and stubbornly high demand for scarce US dollars.”
Against this backdrop and the xenophobic sentiment against Zimbabweans illegally or legally settled in South Africa, Mnangagwa’s administration is now under pressure to speed up economic and political reforms. Zimbabweans will go to the polls to elect a new administration next year.
Zimbabwean blogger Paidamoyo Muzulu said yesterday that Mnangagwa had to come up with solutions to end the crisis that was forcing Zimbabweans into South Africa, where they were now being exposed to xenophobic attacks.
Other analysts said poor performance by the Zimbabwean economy and limited economic opportunities was forcing Zimbabweans into difficult situations in neighbouring countries.
“This is a matter that will cause regional instability if not nipped in the bud. Can Mnangagwa stand up and be counted, or he will choose to look away and ask Zimbabweans to #makemoney by whichever means as he said during campaigns?” said Muzulu.
The xenophobic sentiment by some South Africans against Zimbabweans comes less than a year before special Zimbabwean special permits expire. The special permits allowed Zimbabweans without proper documentation to stay in South Africa without fulfilling normal refugee and immigration requirements.
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