Zimbabweans in Cape Town who claim they fled torture at the hands of ruling party ZANU-PF for supporting opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), say recent reviewing and rejection of refugee statuses by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is causing great anxiety and uncertainty.
Some said now that Robert Mugabe began a new five-year term in office (on 15 August), going back will put their lives at risk. They believe they will be viewed as sell-outs and may be victimised.
People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP) told GroundUp that it has recently received reports about refugees whose statuses have been reviewed and rejected by the DHA.
The organisation argues it is too early and reckless of the DHA to start tightening refugee policies and practices towards Zimbabweans so soon after the elections.
Langton Miriyoga of PASSOP says they are concerned that a blanket approach by the DHA to review and reject decisions may have serious and negative implications on genuine refugees who escaped political violence and torture. He stresses that some refugees and new asylum seekers from Zimbabwe may still have well-founded fears considering that the regime they fled has not changed.
A refugee, 46-year-old Esther Mucheka (not her real name), came to South Africa in 2011 to escape political violence. She works as a domestic worker. When she first applied for refugee status, she was given a six-months document which she renewed every three to six months. She went to Home Affairs on 26 August 2013 and her asylum was rejected on the grounds she was late for renewal. She was told she should have renewed on 19 August, the exact date it expired. She is now anxious and uncertain about her future.
"My home, which was in Epworth, a township in Harare, was burnt by ZANU-PF supporters because my late husband was a strong MDC supporter. My situation is very challenging because I left my 15-year-old girl and 25-year-old son with my parents in Chivhu. I never went back to check on them because I am too scared. I intend to save enough money so that my son can come and help raise money to rebuild our home if there is a miraculous change of government in Zimbabwe.
I came to South Africa to look for protection, I am not sure if the DHA is going to sort this out for me. I cannot go back to Zimbabwe now because my life is in danger. If I go back to Zimbabwe, I might be victimised since the ruling party ZANU-PF perceives me as a sell-out."
Another woman, a Milnerton resident who refused to be named, said her refugee status was rejected last year in October. She is here illegally at the moment. She has been staying in South Africa for eight years and says it is not safe for her to go back yet.
"In the interview, the Refugee Status Determination Officer stressed that I should not mention politics at all as my argument, and he rejected my refugee claim when I did. He said Zimbabwe's political situation has improved and my life is not at risk anymore. I showed him the scar I got when I was tortured by ZANU-PF supporters. He said that was in the past. I was then given 30 days to leave the country. I am afraid that if I go back to the DHA to try again, I might be deported."
GroundUp attempted to contact the Home Affairs Spokesperson for comment and received no response.
This article was fact checked by GroundUp