By Leopold Munhende
ZAMBIAN opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema has blamed Zimbabweans for xenophobic attacks suffered by some of their less fortunate compatriots in neighbouring South Africa over the past years.
Hichilema, who is set to contest in Zambia’s presidential elections on 12 August this year, said blaming Zimbabweans for their misfortune “would not be far from the truth.”
He was speaking to SABC News’ Foreign Editor Sophie Mokoena, Thursday.
“It is important to our country, to this region that we have stability in Zambia because instability in Zambia has a negative effect on South Africa as we saw in Zimbabwe,” said Hichilema.
“When Zimbabwe was unstable, it created unnecessary pressures here (South Africa) arising from immigration because Zimbabweans were leaving their country because it was unsafe (and) flooded South Africa.
“We would not be far from the truth to say the xenophobic behaviour that we saw was arising from the pressures of Zimbabweans coming into South Africa and assumed to have taken jobs that South Africans would have ordinarily occupied.”
Foreign immigrants have in the past been targeted for lynching and other forms of cruel attacks by some angry South Africans who accuse them of migrating into the rich country to take their jobs, commit crimes and sell drugs to local youths, among other accusations.
Images of hordes of frenzied South Africans burning their victims in the streets using tyres have made sad reading in the past with the ANC led government often forced to enlist the services if the South African military to quell the widely condemned skirmishes.
Zimbabweans have found some of their colleagues targeted as they form the majority of migrants in the neighbouring country.
Over two million mostly undocumented Zimbabweans are said to be resident in South Africa after fleeing their country’s chaotic political climate and poor economy.