AT LEAST 4,000 Zimbabweans are locked up in South African jails, the country’s leader Jacob Zuma said Wednesday.
Zuma revealed this while addressing journalists following a meeting held as part of efforts to find solution to the attacks on foreigners, in Durban and Johannesburg that have resulted in the death of seven people and rendering some 7000 people homeless.
“There are criminal elements even among our citizens and we need a holistic approach to all these problems that were left by apartheid really.
“There also foreigners involved in drugs and other activities but these also includes our own citizens. For example we have more than 4000 Zimbabweans in South African Correctional facilities for various crimes,” said Zuma.
The number constitutes about 40% of Zimbabwe’s prison population and backs up President Robert Mugabe’s claims that “our citizens have upset South Africa’s social systems” during a state visit to that country early this month.
Reports indicate that around three million Zimbabweans are in South Africa after fleeing the economic and political upheavals over the past decade and half blamed on Mugabe’s “scorched earth policies and mismanagement”.
Following the meeting with business, church leaders as well as the leadership of the power taxi association in South Africa, Zuma said he was confident measures being undertaken would resolve the violence.
“We are confident that today (Wednesday) as we met with the sectors, we have taken one important decision that the talks must not just be talks but one which must be implemented.”
“We have agreed to establish a task team that is going to put together those proposals and suggestions that will be implemented by all of us,” Zuma said.
The meeting convened by Zuma to discuss the country’s migration policy was also attended by several top government officials.
Zuma said his government would take decisive steps to address “underlying” problems behind the attacks and ensure foreigners were not targeted
“If we don’t deal with the underlying issues, it will come back.”
“We have taken a decision that we don’t want to see it again and therefore we are going to be working together with that determination.”
Zuma gave few details of government plans, but said the violence was driven by “criminal elements” as well as friction between foreigners and locals.
Many South Africans believe poverty and a severe jobs shortage is one driving factor behind mobs in Johannesburg and in the port city of Durban targeting migrants from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and other African countries.
The spate of attacks has revived memories of xenophobic bloodshed in 2008, when 62 people were killed, tarnishing South Africa’s post-apartheid image as a “rainbow nation” of different groups living in harmony.
The South African army was deployed to restore order in the 2008 unrest, and was also used against violent strikers in 2012.