A SOUTH African-based Zimbabwean human rights activist has petitioned President Emmerson Mnangagwa to engage his counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa to stem the rising tide of xenophobic attacks in that country.
Zimbabweans and other nationals have been targets of increased attacks from xenophobic groups in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
Last Monday, foreign immigrants gathered outside Parliament in Cape Town to voice anger over the xenophobic attacks, calling on Ramaphosa to intervene to ensure their safety.
The leader of a vigilante group targeting foreign nationals under the theme “Operation Dudula”, Nhlanhla Dhlamini, was arrested on charges of theft and defeating the ends of justice after his followers raided the home of a Soweto resident, accusing him of selling illicit drugs.
He was released on Monday on R1 500 (US$103) bail.
In a petition addressed to Zimbabwean ambassador to South Africa David Hamadziripi, activist Chandagwinyira Chose called on Mnangagwa to engage Ramaphosa over the xenophobic attacks.
“I am requesting the government of Zimbabwe to intervene in what is happening at Robertson where our dear Zimbabwean citizens are being butchered by South Africans. This is something that needs your office to intervene at a government-to-government level, as it is getting out of hand,” Chose’s letter reads in part.
Operation Dudula has in recent months acted against immigrants in Johannesburg, a drive that has resonated with mainly poor angry South Africans who accuse them of stealing their jobs and committing crimes.
The vigilante group’s actions have sparked fears of an uptick in the xenophobia that has plagued South Africa, a country that is home to several thousands of Zimbabweans and other nationals seeking a better life.
In the past, foreign nationals have ganged up to defend themselves.
A fortnight ago, a newly formed anti-xenophobic group, Kopanang Africa, was stopped from going ahead with an anti-xenophobic march on Human Rights Day by police.
Zimbabwe Foreign Affairs and International Trade ministry spokesperson Livit Mugejo said some Zimbabweans were injured and hospitalised after being attacked by vigilante groups hostile to foreigners in Cape Town on 17 March. There were no casualties.
“On March 17, our consulate in Cape Town gathered information regarding the anti-foreigner violence in the Robertson area which took place the same day. The affected Zimbabweans fled their homes and sought refuge in bushes and some took refuge at the police stations,” Mugejo said.
Ramaphosa recently urged companies in his country to employ locals and train them to the competence required by industry to quell rising tensions over the employment of foreigners.
In his keynote address commemorating that country’s Human Rights Day, Ramaphosa warned that South African employers risked worsening social tensions by employing undocumented foreigners.
The latest xenophobic attacks come at a time when an estimated 180 000 Zimbabwe exemption permit (ZEP) holders living in South Africa face deportation at the end of this year if they fail to migrate to other permits.
Pretoria has said it will not renew the ZEP permit after the expiry of a 12-month grace period lapsing in December.