Back to Index
war in Zimbabwe: An account of the exodus of a nation's people
Peace Trust (SPT)
97 version (714KB)
PDF version (851KB)
If you do not have the free Acrobat reader
on your computer, download it from the Adobe website by clicking
Zimbabweans are now the second biggest group of foreign Africans
in South Africa. Yet there is little formal information available
on their situation. Very few are being officially recorded as political
refugees. Some Zimbabweans claim that it is hard to access asylum
seeker status. It was the intention of the authors to investigate
these allegations, as well as to establish other problems and issues
of relevance to Zimbabweans in South Africa.
needs to brace itself for ever-greater numbers of Zimbabweans unless
a lasting political solution is found to the current crisis. At
both government and NGO level, there is a need to devise policies
to deal humanely with the influx, and particularly to provide services
on the ground. For this, more information is needed.
Data for this report was collected between September 2003 and October
2004. Sources of data included: a desk study of media, human rights
reports and refugee laws; more than two hundred interviews with
Zimbabweans in South Africa; 7 field visits to the Johannesburg
RRO; 10 field visits to places of residence; two surveys involving
a further 211 Zimbabweans; interviews with key informants; 4 field
visits to Musina; 3 field visits to Beitbridge.
ONE: Zimbabwe's biggest export: its people
Part One of the report looks at: the crisis of governance in Zimbabwe;
the humanitarian crisis; the economic crisis. It examines numbers
of Zimbabweans in the diaspora and the implications of this.
TWO: Destination: South Africa: Legal, administrative and social
issues involving refugees
Part Two is an overview of South Africa's legal obligations
to refugees, together with the authors' own findings relating
to the Johannesburg RRO. Issues of quiet diplomacy and xenophobia
are briefly raised.
THREE: The Revolving Door
Part Three covers the experiences of Zimbabweans themselves and
the process of going into exile. This includes: crossing the border;
life in South Africa; access to health care; deportation; repatriation.
It also raises the issue of Zimbabwean deaths in South Africa.
have been several studies of general refugee issues in South Africa
in recent years. CASE has produced two major reports, one in 2001
and one in 2003. Both of these reports were accompanied by extensive
recommendations that were very thorough and consultative. There
is little to be gained by yet again reframing the good work that
others have done in this regard. The National Refugee Baseline Survey:
Final Report, released a year ago in November 2003 made recommendations
to the South African Government, the National Departments of Home
Affairs, Health and Education; also to the UNHCR and Service Providers,
including NGOs and churches. Their recommendations are attached
as Appendix Four to this report.
Peace Trust would reinforce certain of the CASE recommendations,
2003, summarised here:
- To the Department
of Home Affairs:
should investigate bribery within the department.
should issue ASPs that are valid for six months instead of
should be more formal and should be laminated with anti forgery
marks to make their recognition by various service providers
changes should be combined with a massive campaign to promote
recognition of the documents in government departments and
with other service providers.
the Trust recommends that:
- There is
a need to promote greater awareness and debate in South Africa,
including at the level of service providers, of the nature of
the crisis in Zimbabwe, the scale and type of human rights abuses
that are taking place, and the policies that are needed in South
Africa to deal with the numbers of Zimbabweans in their nation.
investigations into how best to provide health care to Zimbabweans
who may not be accessing the public health services must be addressed.
Some are not accessing it because they do not have ASPs. If the
above recommendations are acted upon, then much of this problem
will resolve itself.
- Until national
service providers including the Ministry of Health consistently
recognise the rights of asylum seekers, refugees and their documentation,
as they are required to by local and international law, there
is a need to build a network of support via civil society to ensure
that asylum seekers and refugees, in particular those with torture
related injuries, have safe access to medical care.
- Civil society
should monitor access to medical care, particularly at hospitals,
and document instances of denial of the right to services for
of the right to food
- There is
a need for a test case resolving the issue of whether denial of
the right to food on political grounds constitutes a "threat
to physical safety". Any civil society group that knows
of Zimbabweans in South Africa that have reported political abuse
of food, should consider taking the issue to Court.
- The endless
cycle of deportations should be reconsidered: this is an expensive
and not very effective policy. In particular, urgently:
ill foreigners should not be detained for deportation
health professionals should do an assessment of health conditions
at Lindela and on the deportation trains, to facilitate formation
of a policy that will prevent communication of diseases, protect
the rights of the ill, and monitor deaths of deportees in
- The UNHCR
should be playing a more active role to ensure that minors, and
political asylum seekers who may not have ASPs, are not being
- There should
be opportunity for deportees at Lindela to put on record crimes
against themselves including bribery by South African Police,
SANDF, and Home Affairs officials paid for both in cash and in
sex. Civil society would be in the best position to document such
claims and lay charges.
- There is
a need to protect the rights of deportees on the Zimbabwean side
of the border. Among those currently deported, are unaccompanied
minors, victims of sexual exploitation, the very ill, and those
who have no resources to return to their homes in Zimbabwe and
who end up stranded. Also among those deported, may be political
asylum seekers who fled Zimbabwe in the first instance for reasons
- In view of
the fact that the Zimbabwe government is about to force through
Parliament an Act that will undermine activities of human rights
NGOs and churches, it is not obvious who is supposed to deal with
this sensitive issue, and protect the rights of these groups of
deportees once they are back in Zimbabwe.
there was better screening of deportees on the South African side,
these problems would be reduced in the first place.
are dying in South Africa and are ending up as undocumented deaths
in mass paupers' graves. This may create problems in the
future as relatives back in Zimbabwe do not know where their dead
are buried, and do not have death certificates. There is a need
to facilitate ways of keeping safe, confidential records of how
to contact relatives back in Zimbabwe, in the event of exiles
becoming very ill or dying.
Visit the Solidarity
Peace Trust fact
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.