NOW DAILY EDITORIAL
The fate of up to four million Zimbabweans resident in South Africa hinges precariously on the outcome of a crucial meeting expected this week between home affairs ministers from the two countries.
This follows the expiry of the Dispensation for Zimbabweans Project (DZP), which came into effect in 2009 and allowed a quarter million Zimbabweans in SA to get four-year permits.
The SA ambassador, Vusi Mavimbela has made verbal assurances to the media that Pretoria is working on a better deal for Zimbabwe and that people will not be deported randomly when new regulations come into force at the end of 2014.
“I can assure you that the programme will not only see permits being renewed, but will also be extended beyond those who got the first permits,” Mavimbela said.
Of course this is diplomatic double-speak. If it was that straight-forward, there would be no need for applicants to be “thoroughly screened” and “required to satisfy some requirements”, as the ambassador vaguely put it.
The new SA home minister Malusi Gigaba has since published the regulations, which state that only those with rare skills will get work and residence permits. It is evident that, despite all the diplomatic sugar-coating, SA will get rid of millions of Zimbabweans within their borders, come 2015.
At the core of this immigration crisis is a Zimbabwean economy unravelling because of Zanu PF’s incoherent smash and grab policies aimed at enriching a chosen few than the entire population. Politically, the country has already lurched into turbulent times on a roller-coaster ride controlled by the mafia-type Zanu PF politburo. Considering all the policy confusion that the ignorant, ageing men and women who run that party have entangled themselves in, it is quite obvious that the economy will be in the doldrums by 2018. The political environment is unstable because of dictator Robert Mugabe’s advanced age and uncertainty over a successor. Mugabe’s improbable decision to stand for another election in 2018, when he is 94, for a presidential term that will only end when he is 99, is one of the reasons why many believe that election will not be free and fair.
The region is watching these twin man-made and easily soluble crises. But no regional leader wants to play a leading role in advising the sickly Mugabe to step aside and hand over power to a younger person. Considering the abuse Jacob Zuma and Botswana’s Ian Khama have suffered for pointing out the obvious, Mugabe will have his way and totally ruin the country’s economy and poison the politics to maintain control as he has done previously.
Thd exact number of Zimbabweans in South Africa is unknown. Diplomats suspect the figure now exceeds five million. The Mugabe regime has resisted efforts to conduct a census. The results would obviously be too embarassing for Harare.
That refugee population would also demand the right to vote once their immigrant status is formalized. Besides, such refugees would begin to demand the support which every national is promised by the constitution.
It is, therefore, hard to see how home affairs minister Kembo Mohadi can represent the interests of people whose existence the government does not acknowledge.
Besides, Mugabe says there is no crisis in the country, even though 96 percent of the population are unemployed and an inordinately large number depends on handouts from Western donors and relatives in the diaspora to survive.
The issue at hand is not about permits. It is about a refugee crisis which continues to fester, aided by Mugabe’s blatant election rigging, human rights abuses, political repression, corruption and economic mismanagement.
Pretoria must address these root causes of illegal border crossings and undocumented foreigners. Otherwise measures like banning Zimbabweans who overstay in SA or forcing them to go back to their dangerous homeland to apply for permits will not work. The objective of this new, tough immigration policy, according to minister Gigaba, is that of “managing immigration efficiently and effectively while protecting the integrity of our borders and the sovereignty of our country”.
That noble objective will remain a pipe dream as long as there is a loose cannon in Harare anxious to drive his countrymen and women into exile and misery because they do not want to vote for him.
(c) NOW DAILY 2014.