SA fears new influx of Zim ‘economic refugees’; party checks Beitbridge readiness

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UK Bureau & Agencies

SOUTH Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has said it would assess Beitbridge border post’s readiness to cope amid warnings of a new influx of economic refugees from neighbouring Zimbabwe.

“We will visit the Beitbridge border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe on the Limpopo River,” the party’s immigration spokesperson Jacques Julius (MP) said in a statement.

“Due to the violence and unrest in Zimbabwe, thousands are seeking economic refuge and safety.

“Therefore, the DA will assess the readiness of Home Affairs officials at the border, while engaging with Zimbabwean nationals on the human rights violations they face back home.”

Millions of Zimbabweans left the country over the past two decades under former president Robert Mugabe to escape a biting economic crisis and political repression.

Most settled in South Africa, as well as neighbouring Botswana while others moved overseas to mainly to English speaking countries such as Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States.

Mugabe was toppled by a military coup in November and replaced by long-time protege Emmerson Mnangagwa.

However, hopes of an economic respite under the latter’s so-called ‘new dispensation’ have been dashed while lethal force is still being used against dissent.

12 people were killed last week when the government unleashed the military against Zimbabwean protesting Mnangagwa’s fuel hikes.

Experts have warned that the worsening economic crisis and government’s brutal crackdowns against protests would lead to economic refugees streaming into neighbouring countries.

Harare-based Institute of Security Studies researcher, Derek Matyszak, said while the violence may have abated, he expected a mass exodus of economic refugees as the livelihoods of hundreds of civil servants had been ground to a halt by the dire situation centred around the counter-productive electronic currency introduced by Mnangagwa’s regime.

The DA said Pretoria needs to intervene and help resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe.

“The DA has called on President Ramaphosa to take action with regards to the conflict in Zimbabwe.

“Vulnerable Zimbabweans are being forced to endure extreme suffering, fear and danger – now is not the time for quiet diplomacy.”

Matyszak said South Africa could have saved the situation – if only temporarily – had it lent Zimbabwe the $1.2 billion the country requested.

Zimbabwe has reportedly been trying to raise $2 billion to service its massive loans which were in arrears, preventing the country from accessing any more credit from international financial service institutions.

“That money could have been used to service some of the debt it owed to the African Development Bank and the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and this would have opened up opportunities to get more credit from institutions such as the World Bank,” he said.

But Matyszak added that given Zimbabwe’s dire economic situation, it would be difficult to say when it would afford to pay back such a loan from South Africa or any other potential creditors.