9 May 2014

Zimbabwe: Zim Migrants 'Anxious' Following SA Elections

Zimbabwean citizens in South Africa have said they are anxious about their futures, following the elections in that country this week.

South Africans voted in the general elections on Wednesday, and despite some reports of ballot paper dumping, the process has been praised as free and fair.

By Friday, the vote count was reaching its end stages with the ruling ANC party looking set to retain its national leadership. This will see Jacob Zuma being re-elected as the country's President.

Daniel Muzenda, the spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Migrants Association in South Africa, said on Friday that the new government needs to deal with the country's immigration policies, as well as the lingering xenophobic tensions.

"There is a lot of anxiety because people are not clear about which direction the new government will take on immigration," Muzenda told SW Radio Africa.

He explained that the lack of clarity of the issue of work permits for Zimbabwe nationals was a worrying indicator of the ANC government's attitude towards immigration issues.

Cabinet in March resolved that all permits granted to Zimbabweans under the special dispensation period in 2010, will expire in November. The resolution also included a decision that the permits can be renewed, but only in Zimbabwe. The Department of Home Affairs has still not clarified what this means for the future of Zim nationals in South Africa.

Muzenda said that this issue, along with the permit regulations for migrants and refugees generally in South Africa, will determine what kind of immigration policy the new government decides to have.

"This all has a negative impact on migrants and it all depends what decision the government will make. More migrants might come into South Africa depending on the immigration policy, depending on how restrictive it is," Muzenda said.

He continued that xenophobia is still a real fear among the migrant population in South Africa, and called on the new administration to deal with the issue.

"Last week there were threats of violence against migrants in Rustenberg, where (local) people were saying that after elections all foreign nationals will be sent back home," Muzenda said.

He added: "The new government should try to promote social cohesion as part of their core mandate when it comes to migrants. Government ministries should conduct social education and initiate peace building programs and public awareness campaigns. At least then people will become aware of migrants' rights and responsibilities in South Africa."

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