Xenophobia attacks in South Africa – As Zimbabweans try to make ends meet on the other side of Limpopo


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There is a famous English adage which goes “Home is the best.” If home is the best, then what has become of our fellow Zimbabweans in South Africa? Why did they leave home, Zimbabwe, which is the best, only to witness their rights being abrogated left, right and centre by fellow Africans on the other side of Limpopo? A lot of questions might be asked surrounding Zimbabwean immigrants in South Africa but there is one thing for sure, Zimbabweans who find themselves stationed in South Africa, most of them have never dreamt of making South Africa their second home. This past week, both mainstream and social media platforms were awash with alleged pictures and videos depicting attacks on foreign nations by South Africans. However, whether the attacks are justifiable or not is a question for another day. Zimbabwean citizens have lost human dignity and personal security as guaranteed by section 51 and 52 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe respectively due to the push factors that drove the fellow countrymen and women down south. As the world looks up to the South African Authorities to make resolve of the current happenings in the neighbouring country, the Zimbabwe Government has a responsibility to create opportunities for its people not only based in South Africa but world over. The truth be told, the majority left the Zimbabwe due to the macroeconomic challenges that the country is facing dating as far back as early 2000. The Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development believes that as a people, there are plenty of opportunities for switching on the economic fortunes for Zimbabwe that are necessary to attract back fellow Zimbabweans who leave as economic refugees in other countries. The immediate being the urgent need to address corruption and inefficiencies associated with poor economic governance in Zimbabwe. At the rate at which the country is falling into another recession, ‘home” will not be a better place for many with the majority failing to put food on the table amid high inflation, wage erosion, high unemployment and lack of economic opportunities for young people, relegating the majority poor and marginalised into in our society into worse off positions.

Connecting the dots

Whilst migration both at regional and international level is not a new phenomenon the world over, individual and massive displacements or migration of people are necessitated by a number of factors which range from natural disasters, war, conflict and economic challenges. Nevertheless, according to the 2018 World Migration Report, of all the major drivers of immigration, economic challenges affecting individuals in countries of origin tops the list. The economic challenges currently bedevilling the country have forcibly displaced Zimbabweans with the majority targeting the neighbouring South Africa. There is a widely believed view that Zimbabwe was once “the bread basket of Africa”, whether that was true or not it’s something else, but if one takes a closer look at Zimbabwe’s current socioeconomic outlook, one wonders if the Southern African nation ever became the breadbasket of Africa.

Zimbabwe’s economic recession was born at the start of the millennium that is 2000, however there are a lot of theories surrounding the major causes of the country’s economic meltdown. In some quarters, Zimbabwe’s economic crisis is rooted in the political crisis, in others the macroeconomic challenges stem from policy inconsistencies whilst it is the governments’ stance that the country’s economic meltdown has been necessitated by sanctions imposed on the country by the Western powers following the land reform programme. Whilst one cannot endorse or refute these claims, the article is looking at how the current economic challenges stem from purely economic structural issues with specific focus on poor economic governance especially poor public resources management. According to the Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, Zimbabwe is one of the most corrupt countries ranking 160 out of 180 countries.

The alleged crackdown on foreign nationals in South Africa is understood to be rooted in the locals’ discontentment with how the immigrants are grabbing economic opportunities for the locals. It is critical for one to note that unlike Cyclone Ida which was a natural disaster, the conflict that erupted in South Africa is a man-made crisis that could have been abated. The conflict is a clear reflection of how gross poor economic governance can breed conflict both at home and abroad. How? The control over resources and access to opportunities have the potential to either foster peace or give birth to instability. However, conflicts born out of the need to access and have control over resources is not only manifesting itself in South Africa through the xenophobic attacks, the open conflict between the miners and the communities in Chiadzwa, Zimbabwe, bears testimony on how poor economic governance breeds conflict. At the continental level, Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta region has witnessed continued clash among local residents, the military, police and other groups which have seen loss of lives. If Zimbabwe’s economic cogs were fully functional, Zimbabweans wouldn’t be found at the centre of conflict in South Africa. Zimbabwe’s challenges have never been due to lack of public resources needed for economic development, rather the problems stem from lack of effective public finance management.

The Public Finance Management Reform Indabas held by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development bare it all that Zimbabwe’s public finance management is marred by poor accounting records in some ministries and government departments, abuse of public funds, lack of transparency and accountability and continuous violation of legal and constitutional provisions. This is further substantiated by the 2018 Auditor General’s Report that made damning revelations on fraud, corruption, unaccounted funds, misstatements of financial statements, non-compliance of procedure among a cocktail of gross financial malpractices in public funds management. Abuse and mismanagement of public funds is rampant in state owned enterprises prejudicing the nation of millions of dollars. The Zimbabwe National Roads Administration Authority (ZINARA) is a case in point on how public finances are grossly mismanaged in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s current economic challenges cannot therefore be divorced from the rampant corruption and abuse of public funds prevalent in the public sector. Corruption is slowing down the pace of Zimbabwe’s national economic recovery as it siphons public resources thereby diminishing the country’s prospects for development.  


In order to resolve the macroeconomic challenges faced by Zimbabwe, there is need for serious consideration and implementation of the recommendations proffered in the Auditor General’s Report to ensure efficiency and accountability towards national development to be realised. The xenophobic attacks in South Africa should serve as a wake up call for both SADC and the African Union on the need for the two blocs to seriously deal and resolve poor economic governance in member states. In executing its mandate of mediating in the affairs of member states that face instability, the SADC Regional Organ for Politics, Defence and Security should establish the nexus between economic governance and peace. This is due to the fact that as exhibited in xenophobia in South Africa, poor economic governance spell detrimental effects on both the country of origin and the migrant recipient country and has the potential to destabilise both the region and the continent.

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Sunday, September 8, 2019 - 14:30
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