Malawian victims of xenophobia drifting back to South Africa in large numbers: ‘Can’t withstand the Malawi economic hardships’

It is not if, but when. That seems to be the intention of Malawian refugees who are back in their motherland about returning to South Africa.

South Africa’s grass is still greener

South Africa’s grass is still greener

One returnee, Sangwani Gunda, told Mail and Guardian (amaBunghane)  he and others expect to go back soon. They’re being told by their South African friends that calm has returned.

“We can’t withstand the economic hardship here,” he said.

Another Malawian, who returned to South Africa last week, said most people felt cheated by their government’s promises that they would be taken care of once they got home.

“They promised to put us into technical colleges to learn entrepreneurial skills and give us capital and equipment to start businesses,” he said. “When we arrived in Blantyre we were given money for transport home, a blanket and a plastic bucket. Nobody talked about skills training.”

AmaBhungane understands some 70 beneficiaries of the Malawi government’s repatriation programme, planning to return to South Africa, were stopped by Malawian immigration authorities at border posts.

The return — driven by Malawi’s poverty — threatens to undermine the 200-million kwatcha (R5-million) programme. Malawi was the only African country to launch a repatriation exercise in April for 3?200 of its citizens following a wave of attacks on foreigners in which two Malawians were killed. Five others died in transit to Malawi, Information Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa told a media conference this month.

The repatriation effort
Paul Chiunguzeni, of the department of disaster management affairs, said government acted quickly to save Malawian expatriates in South Africa. “We established a ministerial committee to facilitate repatriation and ensure that all the victims were brought home safely,” he said.

Six buses carrying the first group of 390 returnees arrived in Blantyre on April 20; the last bus, carrying 65 returnees, arrived on May 15. Malawi’s immigration department records show 3?300 xenophobia victims have so far returned to Malawi, using 40 buses hired in South Africa.

Chiunguzeni said the government had suspended the exercise until it received notification from the Malawi high commission in South Africa that other Malawians living in camps wished to come home. He denied reports that government halted the programme because people were returning to South Africa days after having been repatriated.

Adam Ali, the repatriation co-ordinator in Durban, said this week that about 40 Malawians were still camping at the Mariannhill mosque in Durban awaiting repatriation, while 157 others not in the camps had approached the Islamic relief organisation Firqatud Dawah for help.

On April 30, immigration officers at the Dedza border post detained 27 Malawians who tried to return to South Africa in the bus the government had hired to take them home. “Although some had valid documents, we wouldn’t allow them to return to South Africa because government has spent a lot of money repatriating them,” said officer Macfelix Mapemba.

Days earlier police in Lilongwe detained a KwaZulu-Natal-registered bus carrying 70 passengers, including six repatriated Malawians.

They were acting on a tip-off: passengers had refused to leave the bus during a garage stop and instead pulled down the curtains to hide themselves. The driver and conductor bolted when they saw the police.

Many return to SA “daily”
On May 7, immigration officers at the Mwanza border post detained another South African bus for allegedly smuggling repatriated Malawians to South Africa.

Mwanza border spokesperson Pasqualli Zulu said, “All 35 passengers got out and walked to the border as if they were visiting friends in Mozambique. It made us suspicious.”

He said 14 passengers were arrested. The rest ran away.

An immigration official who asked to remain nameless said “a few unlucky individuals” had been caught and many others were returning to South Africa on a daily basis.

Malawi’s director of the nongovernmental organisation Innovations for Poverty Action, Thomas Chataghalala Munthali, said returnees may have weighed the options and decided they were doing better in South Africa. “Malawi is poor … most of those who go to work in South Africa are unskilled,” he said.

Another Malawian said he could not cope with the difficulties he experienced when he arrived at his home in the southern district of Phalombe, hard hit by the recent floods.

“I found my village completely washed away; people have nothing to eat as the crops were also destroyed. There was no hope. I had no house and was relying on relatives who were also struggling to find food.”

He is optimistic he will find piecework in South Africa.

Chiunguzeni said the return of those repatriated was frustrating. “Government did what it could. It’s sad for them to be returning [so soon] after arriving.”

Chiunguzeni said the government couldn’t afford to give returnees extra money. Civil society organisations in Malawi, including the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, have urged the government to create employment opportunities as a long-term solution to the Malawian exodus down south.

The government says unemployment will be partly solved through a community college initiative President Peter Mutharika launched in March, which seeks to train rural youths in entrepreneurial skills that will make them self-sufficient.–M&G /amaBunghane

Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :

Please share this Article if you like Email This Post Email This Post

More From the World

newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Osadzawathandizanso azolowera

Wycliff manda

Pali uchi pali njuchi


Dziko la Malawi lidafika powolo.A Malawife tidafika powoleratu.A tsongoleri athu ndi mphitsi zenizini kapena anamkafumbwe.Achikhala Europe ili pafupi ambiri titanthawamo muno.M’malawi momuno anthu ena sadziwa kuti M’malawi muno muli umphawi ooooopya nchifukwa chake amanyoza azawo .Amenewo ndiye mphutsizo ndi anamkafumbwe amene akuwonga dziko lino.

Malawian government through its spokesperson are an overzealous bunch of dunderheads. By embarking on a repatriation exercise, blowing and touting it in the media they thought they are scoring some political mileage. Deep down their hearts they knew it was just a waste of time and resources. For sure the government knew that these people will surely trek back once calm is restored. For sure life in Malawi is pathetic. Poor roads from Nsanje to Chitipa, poor public transport, poor public services delivery system (from immigration, road traffic, etc), pathetic wages, high illiteracy levels, umve ndiye ndiwosayamba mma town, just… Read more »

Eni Akefe tapilira nthawi yayitali, tanyozedwa nthawi yayitali pano musings watiyankha. Kuyambila chaka chino Malawi ilemela moti sizinawonekenso. Otukwananu osadzabweranso zikayamba kutiyendela, Mukhale kuJoni Keanu konko


Nelly shaba

You are so stupid,this shows that you have not been here south africa,SOWETO is not like ndirande its a nice and cool


It is not the only duty of government to create jobs,also you and me can create a job for fellow Malawians but the problem is, most of us, we study degrees, Masters, PHD that can not be a key for you to be enterpreanuer because we want white color job, eg financial accounting,Business management for what Malawians,go for civil engineering,Architect,electrical engineering,Mining, Agriculture,That is career gold of Malawi,guz.

Lee Kachoka

Democracy siimayenda ndi ndala ma zopatsidwa.Monga kuuza nza ko kuti kwatira,ndikupatsa ndala ma zoyendetsera banja lako.Zinga khale zoona?Kumene dimokalase inachokera,ndalama ndi zao,sizop empha.Tichangamuke.Ndale saad ya!

John M

If my Malawi would come to Kamuzu’s era. I would come back
and stay at home! Malawi would ever! have God fearing leader.
All we have are Thieves!!! From Bakili,Bingu,Joyce and Peter
is Worst!!! That is why Malawi is very poor now!


Proverb 26:5 “Answer a fool according to his folly, 
or he will be wise in his own eyes”
we are having engineers, mechanics, chef, waiters, even doctors. so you better watch your ass before uttering shits. mind you they, don’t go and train there. so stop this nonsense you say ‘ bra bra, they are unskilled what what…..

More From Nyasatimes