Malawi government has said it has begun the “voluntary repatriation” of its citizens, in the wake of ongoing xenophobic violence in South Africa that authorities say has claimed dozens of lives, displaced thousands including Malawians.
Hundreds of people from Malawi, Burundi, Zimbabwe and Congo have reportedly fled their homes since xenophobic attacks and looting erupted two weeks ago.
The violence began shortly after Goodwill Zwelithini, the reigning King of the Zulu nation, publicly said that immigrants should pack their bags and leave the country. Similar comments were also made by South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma’s son, Edward.
Malawi government spokesman Kondwani Nankhumwa said the government has been working to repatriate those who had immigrated to the country.
He said Lilongwe is mobilising resources to repatriate atleast 400 Malawians rendered destitute and some of them injured.
“We are repatriating out citizen to come back home safely,” Nankhumwa, who is Information Minister said.
“The situation is really tense as about 360 Malawians are stranded in South Africa following xenophobic attacks there,” Information Minister said.
He said the Malawians targeted had “lost everything”, including their passports.
Nankhumwa said:”Logistically our embassy (Malawi High Commission in South Africa)is in touch with the South African government to facilitate processing of temporary travel documents for our countrymen and women who have lost their passports. Wew hope this process will be done this week”
The minister said Ministry of Foreign affairs and International Cooperation officials are on the ground to bring back some people by the end of this week
He said government will also carry a civic education Malawians who are trekking to South Africa for economic migration to stop until the situation normalises.
The violence has damaged South Africa’s reputation in Malawi as a haven for foreigners in search of employment and wealth.
Malawian law university lecturer Sunduzwayo Madise said Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and African Union leaders should “demand an emergency meeting” with South Africa President Jacob Zuma to “stop these senseless and savagely attacks on foreigners.”
“If the South Africans don’t want other Africans in their country; let’s tear up the SADC Treaty for a start; and sanction their goods, services and businesses. Let us see if an implosion will not result as the fever catches the global market,” Madise wrote on his Facebook Timeline.
Nankhumwa has since promised government will assist those who needed to be evacuated back to Malawi.
Malawians are being housed in tents on a sports field waiting to be repatriated back home in buses.
Meanwhile, some Malawians refuse to leave South Africa, as they would rather stay in hiding than face poverty and hunger in their own country.
Violence against African immigrants in South Africa is common, with impoverished locals accusing foreigners of taking their jobs and business.
The government has condemned the violence, with President Jacob Zuma sending a team of officials to assess the situation.
“We reiterate that there can be no justification for attacking foreign nationals,” Zuma said on Sunday.
Zuma said not all foreigners in South Africa were in the country illegally and many contributed to the economy with their skills.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :