HARARE - Zimbabweans are calling on President Jacob Zuma’s government to quickly contain xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Zimbabweans may make up the highest number of foreign nationals in South Africa - estimated at about 3 million.
On Friday, more than 200 Zimbabweans demonstrated at the South African embassy in Harare. South Africa's Deputy Ambassador to Zimbabwe Andy Makwabe received a petition signed by 31 civic organizations calling her government to stop xenophobia.
“Definitely we are receiving the communication and we will forward it to our government directly and they will come back to you. So there will be communication that will be done through the government of Zimbabwe,” said Makwabe.
One of the marchers to the South African embassy, 28-year-old Maureen Kadenamaunga, demanded that Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe take action as well.
“What we want is for Mr. Mugabe at this point to take responsibility of what is happening in South Africa. This is why Malawi can make a plan to repatriate its citizens; but our citizens are, one, unwilling to be repatriated and, two, there are three million of them there, it makes a logistical nightmare to repatriate them," said Kadenamaunga.
"Secondly, what we want from Mr. Mugabe as chair of SADC [Southern Africa Development Community] and AU [African Union] is to take a firm stance on what is happening in South Africa. And to make sure that [the] South African government is brought to book and is made to stop the xenophobic attacks,” said Kadenamaunga.
The protesters say their compatriots have moved to neighboring South Africa because of Zimbabwe’s long-struggling economy and its poor human rights record.
Mugabe is the current chairman of both the Southern Africa Development Community and the African Union. So far, he has not voiced concern over the developments in South Africa.
His junior minister of home affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi, said the government is assessing the South African response to the attacks on immigrants.
“For now we are not panicking. We are just waiting to see whether the South African response will be adequate before we take any other measures. They are taking action; we are just keeping our eyes open hoping that they will be able to resolve it and tighten the security situation there,” said Ziyambi.
Several Zimbabweans now in South Africa have appeared on international television saying they do not want to return to their country where the economy has shrunk for close to two decades now.