Xenophobia tales of a Zimbabwean in South Africa: Even Singers harassed by law

If you cannot trust the police, or those in law enforcement, who can you trust?

Source: Xenophobia tales of a Zimbabwean in South Africa: Even Singers harassed by law – NewsDay Zimbabwe February 22, 2017

Opinion: Fubar Bundy

Having arrived in Johannesburg yesterday after a short visit to Botswana, I noticed a young African man busy unpacking a sewing machine, and various other articles, on the sidewalk outside the restaurant where we were to have lunch.

His sewing machine was a hand-model Singer — the same trade name, as the one my grandmother had when I was a small boy growing up in Uttar Pradesh, India. I didn’t realise they still made “Singers,” but the name still brought back wonderful memories.

The machine looked brand new, so I approached its owner, and we started talking.

The guy was well spoken, and had obviously been well-educated and schooled. He shall remain anonymous, but for now, let’s just call him “Tendai”.

He told me that he was from Zimbabwe and had come to South Africa because of the pitiful situation in the country of his birth.

He repaired leather goods, resoled shoes, fitted new heels to ladies’ footwear, and repaired and made clothes.
Tendai said that times were hard and that he barely made enough to get by.

We chatted about his experiences since coming to this country, and he told me the following: “I have been in South Africa, legally, since October 2015 and have frequently been harassed by the police.

“I am a qualified tailor and I only left Zimbabwe in order to provide money and food for my family. Ever since I have come to Johannesburg, I have been paying bribes to the police; whenever they see me working on the pavement, they harass me. I am constantly on the move; trying to find customers. But as soon as I start working, the police come and chase me away if I don’t pay a bribe.

“I am not committing a crime, or ‘stealing jobs’ from my South African brothers and sisters. I just want to put food on my table.

“It would be easy for me to turn to crime in this country. I have even been approached by some people to join them in their shady businesses. But, if I get caught and have to go to jail, my family will surely starve. Besides, I am not a criminal.

“Why is no one doing anything to rid this country of its corrupt cops? My family is starving because I am not allowed to make an honest living.

“The police of this country seem to be above the law. They are a disgrace. People are scared of them; instead of trusting them and depending on them for protection against crime and criminals.”

Being a visitor to South Africa myself, I cannot help, but agree with Tendai’s sentiments and observations.

I have heard enough hair-raising stories — and have read more than enough reports in the local media — to come to the conclusion that the South African Police Service is indeed not up to the task of serving and protecting the citizens of this country.

Judging from the number of skeletons that have come out of the collective closets of recent South African National Police commissioners: Jackie Selebi, Bheki Cele and Rhia Phiyega, it would seem as if these people were appointed for the sole purpose of demonstrating their skills at maladministration and corruption.

And the really sad thing is that the rot goes right from their top police generals, down to the lowest bribe-taking constable.

But then again, if the president of a country is a suspected criminal — and if he is the one solely responsible for appointing National Police Commissioners —how could you possibly expect these commissioners to have closets with no ugly skeletons lurking inside them?

I’m so sorry, Tendai, but you and your Singer will just have to keep moving — always keeping one step ahead of the “law” of this country — a country in which even a hardworking Singer is harassed by the cops.

Fubar Bundy is a renowned writer, of Indian origin, who travels the world and comments on the state of the various nations in general; and the level of development of selected countries. This article originally appeared on Khuluma Africa.


  • comment-avatar
    Morty Smith 5 years ago

    Zimbabweans do not have automatic right of abode in South Africa.

    It is also worth noting that the Zimbabwean authorities are very difficult on immigration matters, frequently denying residence and citizenship to persons born in Zimbabwe