Police said to have been given an ultimatum by local group to evict all undocumented Zimbabweans
After a number of Zimbabweans nationals came under attack in February in Ga-Rapitsi, scores of immigrants say they fear for their future in this village outside Modjadjiskloof, Limpopo.
On the night of Saturday 16 February some Zimbabweans' homes were invaded by a group of youngsters from the village. They accused the Zimbabweans of criminal activity and told them they must leave the area immediately.
Tinashe Chava, a Zimbabwean national who works as a security guard at a store in Ga-Rapitsi, described the incident: "They came in demanding that me, my wife and our two-year-old son leave. They started taking our clothes and furniture outside, but our landlord came to our rescue and told them to leave." He said the intruders also took R1,500 he had hidden under his television.
Captain Kgetha Raphele confirmed that a Zimbabwean woman had sought shelter that night at Kgapane Police Station.
The village has over 10,000 residents spread over six areas. Most of the Zimbabweans, about 300 people, are hired by locals to plough fields; some work at a local brick company, some are domestic workers, others do odd jobs such as gardening.
Charles Tarusarira, who has been living in the area for almost ten years, says he is saddened by what is happening. "Some of my countrymen have left the area, especially the ones without jobs and without legal documents to stay in the country ... I don't have a problem going back home to my country, but I have already started my life here. I have a South African-born wife with two children ... If I leave, my kids will suffer, because I work and I'm working for my family."
Tarusarira suspects the trouble started when youngsters hanging out at the bottle store asked for money to buy beer and he told them he wouldn't give them any money because they were too lazy to work.
Raphele said a community meeting had been held after the February incident. Villagers had been told not to take the law into their own hands. "As the police our job is to protect the community ... South African or not."
He said the police would arrest anyone who committed a crime and they would also arrest anyone who was undocumented and not legally in the country.
About three weeks after the February incident, on 7 March, the police raided the Zimbabweans' homes. According to Raphele, they arrested three women, three children and six men for being undocumented.
Chava's wife, Chipo Moses, and their son, Bright, were among those arrested. Chava was working night shift and was not at home. His wife and child were later released.
Chava no longer feels safe and he wants to leave the village, but he needs money to do this. He says, however, he won't be leaving South Africa.
A South African resident told GroundUp that the police had been given an ultimatum to evict all undocumented Zimbabweans, otherwise the community will act against the Zimbabweans. The group targeting Zimbabweans insist some are involved in crime and blame them for the theft of money from a school feeding scheme at Khubudi High School, a case police are investigating.
GroundUp's informant also said the group had no issue with other immigrants such as Ethiopians and Pakistanis living in the area.