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Why Zimbabweans won’t flee South Africa to return home


Musina mayor decries influx of Zimbabweans



WHILE President Emmerson Mnangagwa was meeting with his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa during the launch of the Border Management Authority (BMA) in Beitbridge, a mayor from the South African main receiving town of Musina, in Limpopo Province, was complaining over pressure on resources being exerted by undocumented migrants.


The BMA, established by a South African Act of Parliament, is responsible for restricting the illegal movement of people and goods between Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Beitbridge Border Post, the busiest inland port of entry in Sub-Saharan Africa, is the transit zone for migrants from across Zimbabwe and Africa. There are millions of Zimbabweans in South Africa who have fled political, economic and social problems back home.

Ramaphosa on Thursday met Mnangagwa behind the scenes in a bid to resolve the protracted Zimbabwe crisis following recent disputed elections yet again, that have been rejected by various observer missions, including the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) team.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) has also been blamed for endorsing Zimbabwe’s sham election which has plunged Zimbabwe into a spiral of economic and political instability.

Nkhanedzeni Godfrey Mawela, the mayor of Musina Municipality, on Thursday said the town has seen little benefit, despite it being a major trading point, with illegal immigrants putting pressure on amenities.

The town is also major trading point for Zimbabwean informal traders.

“As a municipality we can say that we are strategically located, but currently given the illegal activity, we are not benefitting anything. Actually, we see it as a burden because the flow of foreign nationals is a burden to the municipality,” Mawela said in an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

“They (migrants) do spend money this side. What we are talking about as a burden is that we budget money here for the local people. But when these illegal foreign nationals come without our knowledge, they use the same infrastructure and the budget that we would have set aside for our almost 100 000 people.”

He said the town’s health facilities have also been largely filled by foreign nationals seeking medication in the border town.  

“We are a municipality that is struggling with water and a number of service delivery issues. So the uncontrolled flow of foreign nationals becomes a burden. We are happy that the government, even the President himself, is taking this thing seriously, to consider giving support to the municipality, to give service to our people including the foreign nationals,” he said.

“We have a hospital here. If you go to Musina hospital, they will tell you they receive foreign nationals almost every now and then. Actually the hospital is home to foreign nationals who are coming here now and again. Look, they are using the medication and everything that is meant for our people here. It ends up servicing foreign nationals who are coming illegally. We want the national government to be coming to help us solve the situation.”

Many Zimbabweans have been flocking to South Africa for better healthcare, amid a deepening socio-economic crisis which has seen public health facilities fail to provide life-saving services.  

In September last year, the head of health in South Africa’s Limpopo province, Dr Phophi Ramathuba, said the failure by the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to tackle the migration crisis in the region has been straining the country’s health delivery system, whose resources are insufficient to cater for undocumented foreigners.

“How I wish that governments would be able to come on board and be able to assist in making sure their citizens are catered for. If they cannot, but would like South Africa to assist, we should formalise it and give the bill which Zimbabwe, Mozambique and others should be able to pay . . . we are not going back on this.

“There was a time the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Gauteng … was our deputy minister. They also sent bills to different government embassies. We have not received the joy of getting such support,” she said, as previously reported by The NewsHawks.

Zimbabweans have been flocking to South Africa for better health services following the deterioration of the health sector, with Limpopo province being the nearest port of call.

“People of Zimbabwe should also work with their government to deal and resolve these problems. If the citizens do not take interest and say we have an alternative … South Africa’s health system will also crumble and we will not have anywhere to go,” she said.

The province has been doing “means tests” on patients to allow for universal healthcare for people who cannot afford secondary education, but this has made it difficult for the health department to make follow-ups on money owed by patients, she said.

Ramathuba said undocumented migrants largely comprise low-income and unemployed people, and their lack of documentation has been making it difficult for her as head of health to track down money owed by patients.

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