THE South African government deports 45 000 Zimbabweans a year seeking to escape President Robert Mugabe’s marauding tyranny, Solidarity Peace Trust has said in a report published today.
The story of Zimbabwean deportees from South Africa is captured in a documentar
y No War in Zimbabwe, released this month by the Trust.
Zimbabweans who have fled political violence in Zimbabwe have found it difficult to secure asylum as the authorities there cannot classify them as political refugees because “there is no war in Zimbabwe”.
The report comes as the British government announced the end of its two-year suspension of deportations of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe because, it says, the concession had been abused.
Solidarity Peace Trust said while Zimbabweans have sought work in South Africa for decades, the numbers had swollen greatly in recent years since the economic collapse.
“Around 45 000 Zimbabweans a year are deported,” the report said. “Deporting Zimbabweans costs South Africa approximately R720 million a year. Most deportees are back in South Africa within a few hours or days of deportation.”
More than two million Zimbabweans are currently living in South Africa — about 15% of Zimbabwe’s population of 12,5 million.
The decision by the British government to deport Zimbabweans was met with outrage from refugee welfare groups who charged that no-one should be returned to Zimbabwe without monitoring what happens to those who are sent back.
“Deporting Zimbabweans into the hands of Mugabe’s notorious intelligence services is akin to surrendering Condoleeza Rice to Osama Bin Laden,” said an editorial on a Zimbabwean news website.
Solidarity Trust said Zimbabwe’s biggest export was now its people.
“The current exodus is not part of the long-established cross border movement between Matabeleland and South Africa,” the report said.
“Around 500 000 are estimated to have regularly migrated to South Africa for work, but there is an estimate of an additional 1 200 000 now in South Africa.”
An estimated 25% to 30% of Zimbabwe’s population has left the nation. Government’s own analysts put the number at 3,4 million. Out of a population of 12 million, around half is under the age of 15, and out of the remaining six million adults, one million is retired. Out of five million potentially productive adults, 3,4 million are outside Zimbabwe. This is a staggering 60% to 70% of productive adults if the figures are correct.
The report said thousands have fled because they were victims of state violence and torture and they feared more persecution. South Africa is obliged by law to grant political asylum to those who have a reasonable fear of such violence. But Solidarity Peace Trust says South African officials are preventing Zimbabweans from gaining their rightful status.
“The attitude (of the South African Home Affairs department) before then — and very often since — is that there is no war in Zimbabwe and therefore no right to asylum for its people,” the report said.