Monday, June 9, 2008
seeking greener pastures in neighbouring Zambia – and an escape from
the election violence wracking the country – are becoming increasingly
concerned at the rising levels of contempt directed against them.
are being treated with a lot of indignation. Everywhere we go, we are
being treated like lesser human beings; it’s like as long as you are a
Zimbabwean woman in Zambia, then you are a prostitute [sex worker],
which is not the case," Patience Ndhlobvu, a Zimbabwean cross-border
trader in the Zambian capital Lusaka, told IRIN.
take strong exception to that; this is not fair, it’s not a situation
of our own making … Zambians have been very good to us, but it’s like
things are changing [now]. Everyone is suddenly saying bad things about
us. Just the other day, someone called me a prostitute as I was selling
my products [sweets, chocolates and biscuits] in town."
Africa boast the continent's largest economy and is a first choice
destination for Zimbabweans seeking to escape the more than 80 percent
unemployment rate and an inflation rate unofficially estimated at more
than one million percent.
However, recent attacks by South
Africans against foreign nationals, which has killed over 60 people and
displaced tens of thousands, has seen an influx of about 25,000
Zimbabweans from South Africa to Zambia according to the Red Cross,
more than double the number already thought to be in the country.
Mwanawasa, Zambia's president and chairman of the regional body the
Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), reportedly said the
country did not have the capacity to host any more foreign nationals or
refugees, as it was developing its former refugee camps into specialist
institutions such as skills training centres.
Zambia was host
to about 300,000 refugees fleeing the Great Lakes conflicts and the
Angolan civil war during the 1990s; numbers have since fallen to about
113,000 following the repatriations of Rwandese, Congolese and Angolan
Mike Mulongoti, Zambia’s information minister and
chief government spokesperson, said there was a concern Zimbabwe's
presidential run-off elections on 27 June could precipitate the
migration of yet more Zimbabweans to neighbouring states.
Rising tensions between neighbours
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won the 29
March parliamentary poll and almost snatched a first-round victory in
the presidential ballot. But 60 people have since died in political
violence following the elections, according to the MDC.
are continuously being inconvenienced as a people of Zambia," Mulongoti
told IRIN. "We can’t continue to deny that there’s something wrong
going on there [in Zimbabwe] because their people are now coming onto
our soil in thousands. They [Zimbabweans] are all over the place."
diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe are strained - in part as a result
of Mwanawasa convening an extraordinary SADC summit ahead of the 29
March election. Mugabe refused to attend the Lusaka meeting and his
government launched vitriolic attacks against Zambia, along with
Botswana and Tanzania, for doing the bidding of Britain, in "a campaign
for speedy regime change in Zimbabwe".
"As the government of
Zambia, we take strong exception to the Zimbabwean government’s recent
unwarranted attacks on us in the media. How long are we going to
tolerate this? How long are we going to host these people? We did it
during the struggle for freedom," Mulongoti said.
Habasonda, executive director of the regional good governance and human
rights watchdog, the Southern African Centre for Constructive
Resolution of Disputes [SACCORD], told IRIN South Africa's xenophobic
attacks, which appear to target Zimbabweans more than others, could
spread to other countries if Zimbabwe's economic meltdown was not
Zimbabweans resented in the region
thing is, it’s not just here in Zambia where Zimbabweans are being
resented, even in Botswana, even in Mozambique, and even in Malawi the
situation is the same. We have a lot of them coming to do businesses in
unacceptable fields such as in the sex trade,” Habasonda said.
April 2008, Zambian immigration officials deported about 60 Zimbabwean
suspected sex workers from Livingstone, the country's tourism capital.
Immigration Department is attempting to curb the influx of Zimbabwean
immigrants through Zambia's Southern Province border posts of Chirundu,
Kazungula and Kariba, "but it’s difficult to completely clamp down on
these illegal immigrants because they don’t require any visas to enter
Zambia. Some of them come with a day’s permit as visitors but never go
back," an immigration official, who declined to be identified, told
"On average, we are having over 200 Zimbabweans crossing into Zambia every day," he said.
run-off presidential election could be the trigger for far larger
numbers. "We are all keenly watching the situation in Zimbabwe.
Whatever happens in Zimbabwe has a bearing on Zambia," Neo Simutanyi, a
senior political science lecturer at the University of Zambia, told
"Clearly, the people of Zimbabwe want change, but
chances of a free and fair election run-off are very slim. What we
foresee taking place in Zimbabwe is a possible military coup or armed
rebellion if the ruling ZANU-PF goes through, which will be very bad
for Zambia and the region as a whole."
Source: IRIN NEWS http://irinews.org