HARARE – A Zimbabwean couple has been shot in the rising tide of xenophobic attacks in South Africa (SA), forcing the South African government to deploy the army in Johannesburg’s sprawling Alexandra township and parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
SA Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula revealed the brutal attack on the couple at a media conference in Alexandra yesterday where she also announced the deployment of the military to help stretched police to deal with the continuing Afrophobic attacks in which at least seven people have been murdered to date.
Although initial reports had suggested that the Zimbabwean couple had been killed, it was later learnt that they were alive but seriously wounded, and that they were now under heavy police protection in a Johannesburg hospital so that their attackers would not try to come back and finish them off as the couple apparently knew the gunmen.
At the same time, the Zimbabwean Embassy in SA reported that it had repatriated more than 400 of the country’s nationals who wanted to return home because of the xenophobic violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
“So far, since Sunday evening, 407 have left. But that is not a final figure as there may be more wishing to go. The process is not complete,” Zimbabwean Embassy diplomat in SA, Tamuka Muranga, said.
He said Harare ambassador to Pretoria, Isaac Moyo, was in Durban talking to Zimbabwean migrants about their concerns in the wake of the attacks which have left at least seven dead and displaced thousands of people in the past three weeks.
“He is in the Durban area, talking to people in the shelters set up to house foreigners displaced by the violence”, Muranga added.
Elaborating on the deployment of the military, Mapisa-Nqakula said soldiers would not be taking over the work of police but would assist them in maintaining peace.
This also followed four men appearing in the Alexandra Magistrate’s Court yesterday for the brutal murder of Mozambican national Emmanuel Sithole at the weekend — whose murder was captured by a news crew from the SA Sunday Times and splashed around the world to the shame of South Africa.
Mapisa-Nqakula said many people on the ground “will appreciate the decision to bring in the defence force,” as there was a perception that South Africa was not doing enough to protect foreign nationals.
She called for peace, saying she was “hurt” when she saw pictures in the Sunday Times of Sithole being killed in Alexandra — but would not say how many soldiers would be deployed in the unfolding operation.
“That’s operational information which we never give out. The deployment will be done jointly with the police. We are not here to take over the work of the police we are simply here to give support of what the police are trying to do,” she said.
SA President Jacob Zuma would go to Parliament within seven days to inform it of this deployment, she added.
She also called on South Africans to remember the support of other African countries during the struggle against apartheid.
“We are where we are today because other people had to sacrifice … to make sure South Africa got its freedom,” she said, warning people not to take part in a nefarious agenda against the State.
“I want to call on our people, let us not be gullible and vulnerable to manipulation by people who have their own agendas of destroying the State,” she said.
Many Zimbabweans, including firebrand war veteran and former Zanu PF legislator Margaret Dongo, have blamed the gruesome xenophobic attacks on Zimbabweans in South Africa on President Robert Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s “gross misrule” of the past 35 years.
In an interview with the Daily News last week, Dongo said while xenophobia could never be condoned, the incontrovertible fact was that Zimbabwe’s endless political and economic crises due to Zanu PF’s misrule were “the real reason” why Zimbabweans were living as refugees in South Africa and other countries around the world.
“It is Zanu PF that is to blame for these xenophobic attacks on our own sons and daughters because they have driven people outside because of their poor policies.
“They are the ones who have caused hardships and the high unemployment rate, and they do not care about anyone because they are busy looting and building expensive mansions for themselves,” Dongo said.
Up to three million Zimbabweans, most of them illegal migrants, are estimated to live in South Africa — with South Africans routinely blaming foreigners of not just squeezing them out of scarce job opportunities, but also engaging in crime.
To underscore the dire situation in the country, economists have pointed out the horror fact that average incomes in Zimbabwe are now at their lowest levels in 60 years, with more than 76 percent of the country’s families now having to make do with less than $200 a month, well below the poverty datum line of more than $500.
In addition, it is projected that the economic malaise bedevilling the country will worsen this year and beyond, as Mugabe and his Zanu PF continue to demonstrate their gross incapacity to fix things.
Dongo said her erstwhile comrades in Zanu PF had elected “to bury their heads in the sand” when the ordinary people that they had driven out of the country due to their “disastrous policies” were trapped “between a rock and a hard place across the Limpopo”.
So bad was the situation, she added, that many Zimbabweans “dreaded the prospect” of coming back home because there was “nothing to come back home for” and thus would rather face death, xenophobia and uncertainty in South Africa.
“Those who are investing and building mansions in Zimbabwe and South Africa should be asked to focus on investments and their assets outside should be frozen. They should also be investigated to establish the source of their money kuti vaiona kupi (to establish how they massed their wealth),” Dongo added.
The country has been abuzz over the past few weeks owing to reports that the nouveau riche are building mansions both at home and in neighbouring South Africa as they choose to settle and invest in a more stable country.
Dongo said it was time that the anger of hungry Zimbabweans was turned towards the authors of the present hardships.
“Enough is enough, we cannot watch our children and friends die in this manner while the children of the powerful go to areas or countries where they are protected,” she said.
She said, ruefully, that freedom for the majority of Zimbabweans only existed “in theory and on the lips of rented crowds”.
This was the reason, she said, why the country urgently needed to take stock of why so many young people had chosen to sacrifice their lives and participate in the liberation struggle in the 1970s.
“Ndozvakafira vana kuhondo izvozvi zvekunoita nhapwa munedzimwe nyika (Is this the reason why our children died during the war to be serfs in other countries)?” she asked rhetorically.
Dongo also charged that most of the genuine war veterans who were still alive were wallowing in “abject poverty”, which was unacceptable.
“And we have our anniversary on Saturday. What is there to celebrate, ndikokunonzi kupenga (celebrating independence in this State is madness),” she said.