ZIMBABWEANS should be in their home country and all nations “need to take responsibility of their citizens” a South African cabinet minister and senior ruling African National Congress (ANC) party official has said.
Chairperson of the ANC subcommittee on international relations Lindiwe Zulu says countries should take responsibility for their citizens.
The discussion was a precursor to the ANC’s policy conference which is expected to debate the sensitive subject of South Africa’s immigration policies.
“When it comes to the issue of Home Affairs, and you were saying maybe we are sending Zimbabweans back to starve, as the African National Congress we believe that all countries need to take responsibility of their citizens,” Zulu said.
The discussion on international relations comes amid the department of home affairs' decision not to extend the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit granted to Zimbabwean nationals working in SA.
“First and foremost, we take responsibility for our citizens, We make sure that despite the challenges we have of poverty, unemployment and inequality, we don’t have South Africans leaving SA with almost nothing, leaving SA for neighbouring countries to look for greener pastures when they aren’t that much greener.”
Zulu said the ANC and Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF were having discussions in the run-up to the 2023 elections in Zimbabwe.
“We continue to engage with Zanu-PF to say let us all collectively create conducive environments for our people so we have people-to-people relationships. It's going to be people-to-people without some feeling like they are being pinched, without feeling like we’ve got too many Zimbabweans in the country and they should be in their home,” she said.
She called on other countries to help SA to deal with the issues of immigration and immigrants. The home affairs department faced a backlash from the public and court action from the Helen Suzman Foundation over the decision to not extend the exemption permit.
The foundation said the move was xenophobic, a claim home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi denied.
“The minister and the department will vigorously defend the lawful, reasonable and rational decision by the minister. We cannot be expected to throw up our hands in despair and fail the people of SA. The minister’s door is always open for constructive engagement rather than waste ever-shrinking government resources to defend unnecessary court challenges,” said the department.
Zulu has form on the subjected of Zimbabwe and has, over the years, regularly angered the ruling Zanu PF party from the time she was a Zimbabwe dialogue facilitator for then South Africa president Jacob Zuma.
Her public comments on Zimbabwe resulted in Mugabe famously disparaging her as an “idiotic street-woman” and urging Zuma to stop this woman of theirs from speaking on Zimbabwe”.
More than a million Zimbabweans are estimated to have crossed the Limpopo to settle in South Africa, escaping economic hardships back home.
However, as South Africa grapples in with growing inequalities and high unemployment, locals have blamed migrants, particularly Zimbabweans, for taking job opportunities resulting in deadly xenophobic violence.
Amnesty International recently reported that migrants from Mozambique and Zimbabwe “feel unsafe in South Africa and face constant harassment from both the police and anti-migrant vigilante groups, who unlawfully demand to see their identity documents”.