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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
Zimbabwe anger over SA expulsions
Zimbabweans caught in Messina
Those who have come across the Limpopo are already plotting their return
By our Harare reporter

Zimbabweans have reacted angrily to the order by South Africa for thousands of farm workers to be deported back to Zimbabwe.

Although the South African authorities have postponed the mass expulsions, due to have begun this week, it has not stopped about 8,000 farm workers from crossing the Limpopo river back into Zimbabwe.

After all our sacrifices in the anti-apartheid struggle, we are very angry that South Africa's way of thanking us is to deport our people

Chihway Kurauone Chihwayi

The government temporarily halted the removals following a court case and direct pleas from farmers who fear that the removal of 15,000 workers might ruin their business.

They say they would not find South Africans to replace the migrant workers.

Jobs for locals

The reprieve is to last for 14 days, according to the South African Home Affairs ministry, whilst exceptional cases are processed.

South Africa's immigration department argues that the deportation of Zimbabweans would open up jobs in a country also faced with high unemployment.

But that move has not gone down well among Zimbabweans who accuse South Africa of being ungrateful, unfair and completely arrogant.

"After all our sacrifices in the anti-apartheid struggle, we are very angry that South Africa's way of thanking us is to deporting our people," said Chihwayi Kurauone Chihwayi, president of the Zimbabwe National Debate Association.

Planning return

ZImbabwean MP Saviour Kasukuwere, said: "We are surprised to note that South Africa is going ahead to deport our citizens when Malawians and Mozambicans in Zimbabwe enjoy citizenship rights."

Zimbabweans cross a bridge into South Africa
Migrants take up menial jobs South African do not want

The Herald said that thousands of workers were now camped in the bush, scrouging for food and planning to return to their jobs in South Africa.

For many others who have worked and lived in the richer neighbouring country for many years, it may mean a long and painful journey back home where they face a bleak future.

Although paid better than in their home countries, the farm workers have nothing to show for their many years in South Africa where they took up menial jobs despised by locals.

Traders next

But back home, they will have to fight for jobs in a shrinking agricultural job market which has seen 70,000 farm labourers displaced as a result of the violent occupation of white-owned farms by goivernemtn supporters.

Those evicted are now living in appalling conditions in makeshift camps and squatter settlements along main roads.

A Zimbabwean working in Harare described the move as mean-spirited, unfair and spiteful.

South African soldiers guard the border
South Africa takes no chances with immigrants

He said he was disappointed that despite South African President Thabo Mbeki's call for an African Renaissance, he had done nothing to stop the anti-foreigner feeling in the country.

A cross border trader fears the move would only add to more crime in the region.

Better life

He says once farm workers are sent back, it would be small traders like himself next.

Before the South African Government's high profile move to remove illegal migrants about 2,600 Zimbabweans were deported each month.

But they mostly find their way back into South Africa where prospects for a better life are brighter.

See also:

10 Sep 01 | Africa
Does South Africa hold the key?
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