BORDERLINE: Sending illegal Zimbabweans back to Mad Bob is a pipedream
Zimbabweans often express their wish to return home but point to the reality of pervasive poverty and repression in a country where,
under the gangster rule of Robert Mugabe, GDP per capita is 5% of
that of SA
WITH an estimated 1,5m to 2,5m of them among us, it’s obviously not difficult to meet Zimbabweans in South Africa. Those willing to talk about the refugee problem – and most appear to be – will tell you our Government’s plan to ship back to their homeland those here illegally who haven’t taken advantage of the recent regularisation offer, is a pipedream.
If we conservatively assume the number here illegally is, say, 750 000, then – after allowing for the 235 000 or so Home Affairs says have applied for papers – we’re faced with the immediate task of deporting the remaining half million home to Zimbabwe.
We’re also left with the problem of guarding our porous 4 000km border with our northern neighbour against a continuing flow of Zimbabweans, Mozambicans and others seeking a better life in SA. For example, it’s well known that Government trucks taking illegals to the border for deportation are followed by other trucks that then proceed to well-known crossings to take the same people back into SA.
But Minister of Home Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma says to Bloomberg that her message to “the border jumpers” is that “once this process has been concluded they will be arrested, deported and not allowed back into SA”. Well, one wonders – given the pressures on our security, police and military forces – who is going to arrest these hundreds of thousands, who is going to deport them and who is going to prevent them from returning?
Let’s accept the recent clampdown has been a positive move in that hundreds of thousands of people who have been living here in limbo can now become legal residents and, if they wish, citizens. They’ll be in the system, which is constructive in many ways, including tax collection, education, health services and criminal and other prosecutions.
But it seems the heart of the matter lies in the healing of Zimbabwe and its recovery and return to respectability and acceptance in world forums. Zimbabweans often express their wish to return home but point to the reality of pervasive poverty and repression in a country where, under the gangster rule of Robert Mugabe, GDP per capita is 5% of that of SA. Having clearly lost the last election, this is what that maniac had to say: “We are not going to give up our country for a mere X on a ballot. How can a ballpoint pen fight with a gun?” He reminds me of one of history’s greatest mass murderers, Mao Tse Tung, who famously declared that power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
Now it would be foolish to underestimate the difficulties faced by SA’s leadership in dealing with an irrational actor such as Mugabe. For example, an economic blockade of Zimbabwe by its neighbours would inflict immense damage on that country; but such damage would be initially and most painfully felt by its poor masses.
Already the corrupt elite around Mugabe are feeling the heat of international action against them, such as the freezing of bank accounts and travel restrictions. Perhaps SA, along with Mozambique and other neighbours, might step up such measures themselves, thus sending Mugabe and his gang a stern message without inflicting further suffering on the poor. And, of course, growing exclusion from international financial circles was a serious factor in the collapse of apartheid, with the old Chase Manhattan leading the way.
It can’t be denied that Zimbabwe’s turmoil negatively affects our national interests, not only via the flood of impecunious refugees but also by the loss of a potentially vigorous trading and economic partner. Clearly SA’s Government wouldn’t be taking steps to force Zimbabwean illegal refugees back across our border while pledging to stiffen border controls and arrest all undocumented illegals if it didn’t perceive the national interest to be threatened.
Thus if – as appears to be the case – the Zuma administration perceives a threat to the national interest it must act to protect that interest, which is its sacred duty.