Desperate lives, twilight worlds: how a million Zimbabweans live without official sanction or sanctuary in South Africa
The largest mass movement of people into South Africa in its history is continuing into its seventh year, yet the Government appears to have a policy that consists mainly of window dressing and broken promises. The desperate plight of migrants, caught in a twilight world of poverty and unbelonging, involves over one million Zimbabweans of all walks of life and of all ages. Two case studies in this report highlight two small groups – one reviews 82 unaccompanied minors, and one reviews 456 Zimbabweans displaced in November 2009 in De Doorns in the Western Cape. This latter group, part of around 2,400 in De Doorns, had their shacks destroyed during clearly orchestrated and premeditated xenophobic attacks: four months later they remain, more or less forgotten, on a playing field.
The writing is on the wall that there will be more xenophobia in South Africa, as none of the underlying issues are being adequately addressed, being subsumed in South Africa’s bigger challenge of poverty alleviation and service delivery for its own people. Where poor South Africans and poor migrants mingle, violence will continue to be seen, as long standing prejudices against foreigners and political turf wars play out at the expense of migrants. With the end of the World Football Cup building boom in sight, and with local government elections looming in South Africa, circumstances could be pushing people towards ethnically, politically and poverty-driven violence in 2011. Between May 2008 and the end of 2009, there seems to have been little learnt about heading off xenophobic violence, judging by the response of officials to events in De Doorns. The question remains unanswered as to how long it will take the authorities in South Africa to learn from the lessons of the past and to put in place measures to protect all who live within their borders, without prejudice.
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