South Africa Resumes Deportation: A Political Calculation

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Reports from Zimbabwe indicate that South Africa has resumed deportation of illegal Zimbabweans. 500 Zimbabweans were sent over the border to Beitbridge. From the estimated 1.5million Zimbabweans living in South Africa only about 250,000 applied and were granted residency status leaving several thousands vulnerable to deportation. Even though South African officials have stressed that they are not targeting Zimbabweans only but all illegal immigrants it is likely that Zimbabweans will be the most affected.

Most of the illegal Zimbabweans in South Africa crossed the border in search for better jobs and living conditions after the Zimbabwean economy deteriorated over the last decade. However, some immigrants have become targets of angry South Africans who blame them for taking the limited jobs available. Xenophobic attacks have also affected Zimbabweans the most as several have been killed, injured or displaced.

However, as these Zimbabweans there are questions as to whether they will remain in Zimbabwe or seek to return to South Africa for better economic conditions. Zimbabwe’s economy has begun to stabilize since the forming of the Unity government but the economy remains troubled and is plagued by high unemployment.

One has to look at these deportations from the point of view of the South African government. The voice of discontent amongst the poor and working class in South Africa is rising and the ANC government must be seen to sympathize with the needs of the electorate. As ANC Youth Leader Julius Malema continues to voice discontent among the poor, and workers go on strike there is a need for the government to be seen on the side of the poor and working class to quiet the discontent looming in the townships. This is a class act by the South African government to silence the voice of discontent in the midst of the global recession and Zimbabweans unfortunately are just caught in the middle of politics.

Courtesy of Lillian Mhosva 2011

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