Zimbabweans Evacuated In South Africa As Xenophobic Attacks Loom
Zimbabweans shown this morning walking with their belongings and gathered at a Community Center in Der Doorns shantytown in the Western Cape Province of South Africa after South Africans turned on them and demolished 600 of their homes. This xenophobic attack has now seen 2000 people, by some reports, gathered at a hall near the local police station.
Harare, Zimbabwe, 17 November 2009
Police in the Cape Province had to fire bullets to disperse a crowd that had started demolishing shacks rented by Zimbabweans in Der Doorns, which is South Africa's Western Cape Province.
The residents were protesting that Zimbabweans in the area accept lower pay and are, therefore, depriving South Africans of jobs.
But other sources say that the flare-up in the violence was prompted the previous night when a fight involving Zimbabweans and South Africans broke out at a shebeen (informal drinking place). The Times of South Africa reports that a police spokesman confirmed this, saying 68 Zimbabweans had been sleeping in storerooms next to the local police station through the weekend after that fight, which took place on Friday night. They were running scared after locals started threatening action against the foreigners who had been involved in the fight.
Tensions have been simmering since then.
When Zimbabweans working in South African farms tried to board the trucks that ferry them to work each morning today, they were prevented by a mob that soon turned against the properties rented by the Zimbabwean farm workers in the township.
The locals now have a grievance that goes beyond the fight and look upon Zimbabweans as taking local jobs. They wanted them out of the area.
One thousand Zimbabwe (some reports say they now number 2000) have since taken refuge at the local hall next to the police station in the De Doorns area.
The police say that this happens every year. This being a farming area, the jobs are seasonal and tensions always rise at the end of the year as the season kicks into full gear and seasonal workers are hired. Local farmers consider Zimbabweans generally harder-working than South Africans and prefer to hire them over the locals.
The locals do not think this fair and it becomes an even more explosive situation when drink and brawls are thrown into the mix.
The Zimbabweans are likely to be sent back home, probably with nothing, since they would not dare go back to their shanties to pick up their belongings.
Zimbabwe's unemployment levels are still hovering around 90%, with businesses failing to increase capacity enough to absorb some of the jobless. Those surviving in the country are resorting to the informal sector, but even this is now proving hazardous in Zimbabwe.
Last week, the MDC-Tsvangirai-controlled Harare City Council sent in Municipal police to chase away vendors in the informal sector in the poor township of Mbare. One vendor, whose wife is nine-months pregnant, was killed by the Municipal Police.
Under the circumstances, Zimbabweans will continue to risk their lives crossing into South Africa and fleeing to other countries in search of greener pastures.
All the while, the MDC says the country is now stable, the economy is improving, shops are full and Zimbabweans must come back home where they can live the life of Riley!!