via Zimbabweans in SA likely to stay put | The Financial Gazette Ray Ndlovu 20 Mar 2014
ZIMBABWEAN nationals based in South Africa are unlikely to troop back home despite moves by Pretoria to institute tougher legislation against illegal immigrants. An estimated two million Zimbabweans are resident in South Africa either as economic or political refugees.
Naledi Pandor, the South African Home Affairs Minister said recently that her country’s immigration regime needs a complete “rethink” to “address some inefficiency and fill some gaps”. Indications are that Pretoria might tighten screws on marriages of convenience, make it riskier to break visa conditions and change policy which allows in skilled people.
But observers ruled out the possibility of Zimbabwean immigrants returning home let alone these measures discouraging the influx of illegal border jumpers into South Africa. Vivid Gwede, a social commentator, said the harsh economic climate in the country was likely to force even more people to go to South Africa.
“I don’t think Zimbabweans will suddenly troop back home because there remains a serious push factor at home which is in the form of a weak economy. The ZANU-PF government has not yet shown any signs that it can change things for the better anytime soon and opportunities are shrinking in the formal economy due to wide-scale industrial closures. The Zimbabweans in South Africa are already between a rock and a hard place, but they are likely to choose to remain there than return to certain poverty that awaits for them at home,” said Gwede.
Traffic volumes at Beitbridge Border Post — southern Africa’s busiest inland port — remained “normal”. Activity might only increase in April in line with the upcoming Easter holidays.
Khanyile Mlotshwa, a political commentator, said while some Zimbabwean nationals were doing menial jobs in South Africa, they would opt to remain there, as long as the government does not guarantee them and employment at home.
“It is not some abstract laws in some government offices that will force them back home, but changes to the reality of their situations. Most people who are in South Africa are economic refugees and exiles of all kinds. No one enjoys being labelled or called an illegal immigrant. It is only positive change in Zimbabwe’s economy, especially the creation of jobs, that can bring them back home,” he said.
Recently, Jonathan Moyo, the Minister for Information, Media and Broadcasting Services urged those in the Diaspora to return home where their skills and knowledge would be put to use in helping to rebuild the economy which is in comatose. Moyo’s call followed that of Patrick Chinamasa, the Minister of Finance who has also in recent months, courted the Zimbabweans in the Diaspora.