By Tendai Ruben Mbofana
So, President Cyril Ramaphosa has decided to establish a BMA (Border Management Authority) specifically to curb illegal crossing into South Africa, mainly from Zimbabwe!
I am sure that is all well and good!
It may be the most logical step to take when South Africa is reportedly home to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Zimbabwean immigrants – most of whom are residing in the country without the relevant documentation.
In fact, it is estimated that about 15,000 Zimbabweans cross into their southern neighbor each and every day…legally or illegally!
Consequently, South Africa’s services, meant to benefit its own citizens, are overburdened with this unbudgeted for additional population – leading to a strain on the country’s economic resources.
In so doing, this has inevitably created deep resentment amongst South Africans against foreigners in general and Zimbabweans in particular.
Few have forgotten the angry rant by Limpopo Province health MEC Phopi Ramathuba towards a Zimbabwean woman who had sought medical assistance in South Africa.
Of course, the most outstanding are the frequent xenophobic attacks on immigrants, irrespective of their legal status – which, lately, have started rearing their ugly heads again.
In May 2008 alone, when some of the worst scenes of xenophobic violence were witnessed in South African, nearly 70 immigrants were killed in cold blood, accused of ‘taking our jobs’.
As a matter of fact, the issues of immigrants, especially those crossing and residing in the country illegally, are expected to be one of the central themes in the 2024 South African general elections.
That is why the Ramaphosa administration decided to end the ZEP (Zimbabwe Exception Permit) – which, since 2010, had regulated the legal status of 180,000 Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa.
However, in June this year, the Pretoria High Court barred South African officials from arresting and deporting holders of the permit.
This was after a successful court challenge by the Helen Suzman Foundation, who argued that the decision to cancel the permits had been taken without public consultation.
As was expected, the South Africa government did not take this ruling kindly and has (through the home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi) since lodged an appeal.
The Ramaphosa administration clearly wants to be seen by South Africans as serious over this immigrant issue and taking firm action in curbing the influx.
That is why, today, the president will be launching the BMA in the border town of Musina.
According to a statement on Ramaphosa’s official website, this new Schedule 3(A) public entity is an integrated border management platform, with a single command and control with which to support the attainment of secure borders, safe travel and trade.
When I learnt of this news this morning, the first thought in my mind was: would all this be necessary had Ramaphosa done the right thing by piling pressure on the Zimbabwe regime to govern according to the rule law?
Surely, could all these efforts – in pushing out Zimbabwe immigrants, both through cancelling ZEPs and now the BMA – not have been averted if Ramaphosa had acted responsibly as the regional leader he is supposed to be?
As Africans, we have some very strong and effective family and community structures, which ensure that each member is kept to the highest standards of conduct and behaviour.
I know for a fact that even if I were to do something untoward and irresponsible, my family would immediately sit me down, admonish me, and hold me to account.
There are no two ways about it!
So, why is Ramaphosa not being the ‘big brother’, which is expected of him?
We all know the reasons Zimbabweans are flocking to South Africa, legally or illegally.
This is as a direct result of the President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa administration’s sickening propensity for looting and mismanaging the country’s vast natural resources.
As a matter of fact, Zimbabwe has the potential to be economically more powerful than South Africa – if only our leaders were faithful in their stewardship of our resources.
We are endowed with the largest reserves of lithium in Africa, the second platinum deposits (2.8 bullion tons) in the world, the seventh largest producer of diamonds, and the second largest gold reserves per square kilometre (with 13 million tons in total deposits).
Yet, we are home to some of the poorest people in the world – with half the population living in extreme poverty, whilst two-thirds of the workforce earning below the poverty datum line.
This has forced millions of ordinary Zimbabweans to flee the country in search of a semblance of decent livelihood – South Africa being the main destination of choice due to its stronger economy.
The country has the embarrassing tag of having one of the highest food price inflations in the world – up there with Venezuela, Lebanon, Argentina and Suriname – according to the World Bank.
Our health delivery system is virtually comatose – lacking essential medications, functional cancer machines, adequate ambulances, and other basics.
That explains why the woman whom Ramathuba berated decided to travel to South Africa for medical attention in the first place.
In all this, Zimbabwe’s ruling elite are enriching themselves through repulsive corruption and plundering of our abundant resources – making them some of the wealthiest people on the continent.
Each year, the country is prejudiced over US$3 billion in our minerals through smuggling, and other illicit cross-border financial transactions – with not a single one of those involved and aligned to power ever brought to book.
Who can easily forget the Al Jazeera ‘Gold Mafia’ investigative documentary exposing gold smuggling and money laundering in Zimbabwe by the ruling elite?
One can just imagine what economic development such money could have brought to our country.
When ordinary citizens, who have had enough of these crooks, decide to express their displeasure and disgruntlement, they are met with unbridled brutality and savagery.
The harrowing images of August 2018 and January 2019 – when dozens of unarmed protestors were gunned down, in cold blood, by state security forces on the streets of the capital Harare – still haunt Zimbabweans to this day.
And if they want to rid themselves of the government, through elections, these are stolen right, left and centre – through the flagrant violation of the Constitution and electoral laws, as well as regional and international guidelines governing democratic elections.
This is exactly what was witnessed during the recent 23rd and 24th August harmonized elections – where all manner of devious methods were employed to steal the vote from the people.
The main opposition CCC was practically barred from freely campaigning – with quite a significant number of their gatherings prevented by law enforcement on preposterous reasons.
The shadowy ZANU PF affiliate FAZ (Forever Associates Zimbabwe) was permitted to intimidate rural voters – even setting up so-called ‘exit survey tables’ directly outside polling stations – whilst demanding people’s names and for whom they had voted.
The same rural folk were frog-marched to polling stations, headed by their traditional leaders, under specific instructions to vote for the ruling party and Mnangagwa.
Similarly, they were told that the serial numbers on ballot papers could be used to trace who voted for whom – resulting in unspecified dire consequences on those discovered to have ‘voted for the wrong party and person’.
The ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) refused to release an electronic and auditable copy of the voters roll to contesting parties, especially the main opposition, in stark violation of Section 21 (6) of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13].
Not to be outdone, state-owned media was openly biased against the CCC and unashamedly favouring ZANU PF, in contravention of sections 155 and 61 of the Constitution.
All these glaring anomalies and irregularities were aptly captured by the various election observer missions stationed in the country during the polls – including SADC, the AU, COMESA, Commonwealth and EU.
In light of all this corruption, mismanagement of our resources, human rights abuses, and flawed elections – one would have expected Ramaphosa (as the ‘big brother’) to pressure the Zimbabwe regime into doing what is right.
As a regional and continental leader, the South African president should have stepped to the plate in holding Mnangagwa and his government to account – through such organizations as SADC and AU.
Nevertheless, he has chosen to turn a blind eye and look the other way.
In fact, he has even gone a disturbing step further by making the shocking declaration that ‘there is no perfect election in the world’ – thereby effectively defending and condoning the Zimbabwe regime’s lawlessness.
I wonder what type of person I would be today had my family treated my youth-era disobedience and rebelliousness in the same manner as Ramaphosa is doing to Mnangagwa!
I am sure I would either be dead or in prison had my loved ones turned a blind eye and looked the other way – simply declaring: no one is perfect in this world!
What Ramaphosa is doing is unacceptably irresponsible and not to be expected from someone in his position.
If he genuinely loves the people of Zimbabwe or even Mnangagwa, he should do the right thing and hold these crooks to account.
In doing so, he may actually discover that his government will not need any Border Management Authority or even resort to deporting Zimbabweans.
He needs to know that those in his country (be it illegally or legally) would prefer being back home with their family and friends.
They are only in South Africa out of sheer desperation.
If the economic and political situation in Zimbabwe is fixed, the vast majority of Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa will voluntarily flock back home.
Ramaphosa can save his country the millions of Rand required to police the porous border and chasing after illegal immigration already in South Africa.
● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: email@example.com, or visit website: http://mbofanatendairuben.news.blog/