The first batch of Zimbabweans fleeing xenophobic attacks in South Africa arrived at Beitbridge Border Post last night with harrowing tales of how they narrowly escaped death and witnessed some people being killed. Most of the 407 people, who arrived in a convoy of six luxury buses and a haulage truck supplied by the Government, looked distraught and vowed never to return to South Africa after missing death by a whisker upon being sold out by their neighbours.
Mr Climate Mushanga of Zaka said he had to flee, leaving behind his South African wife and two children after watching his cousin being beheaded.
“On Tuesday last week, I watched my cousin Pepukai Museyi being beheaded by a group of rowdy Zulus armed with machetes, knifes, knobkerries and guns who were toyi-toying, singing songs denouncing foreigners,” he said.
“It seemed that the South African Police were laughing while my relative was being killed. We were only helped by the Metro Police who took us to a camp where other Zimbabweans were. As a result, I left my wife whose life I don’t fear for because she is South African. I fear for the lives of my children because these people were ruthless.”
Mr Daniel Sungai (46) showed his hand which was injured as he blocked a knife from rowdy South African gangsters.
“I ran for my life and mobilised other Zimbabweans so that we could fight back, but we were overpowered because they outnumbered us, so we ended up giving up and running back to Zimbabwe with our lives,” he said.
“I lost my money and cellphone during the scuffle. I will never return to that country again.”
Ms Margaret Dhambuza of Chiredzi said she fled her home after she was sold off by her neighbours.
“The South Africans were making rounds in the Chatsworth area of Durban hunting for foreigners to kill and when I heard about it, I took my two children and went to the highway where I was rescued by the police,” she said.
Ms Brenda Mavenge, also of Chiredzi, said her house was destroyed and her husband was thoroughly beaten.
“They travelled in groups armed with knives, knobkerries, machetes and guns,” she said. “I suspect we were sold off by our neighbours. Those people are ruthless. We watched some children being beaten and being thrown in storm drains full of water. I will never go back to that country again although my husband remained.”
The xenophobia victims are expected to leave for their various destinations early this morning after putting up at a holding centre established by the Government at Beitbridge.
Minister of State for Matabeleland South Cde Abednigo Ncube, who was part of a Government delegation welcomed them.
“As Government we were disturbed with the disturbances and were worried about the safety of our people,” he said while addressing the victims. “We have been in constant touch with the South African Government on a regular basis to get the latest information on the attacks so that we could come up with a plan.
“We will try and solve the issue with the South African government and you can return once we are sure that you will be safe there.”
Cde Ncube said Government would provide three buses, while other partners had provided a similar numberto carry the victims to their respective homes from Beitbridge.
Civil Protection Unit director Mr Madzudzo Pawadyira said they expected more Zimbabweans to flee South African if the situation remained the same.
The repatriation of 360 more Zimbabweans displaced by the attacks was delayed yesterday after the South African Home Affairs department prioritised processing documents for Malawian nationals who also want to leave.
The group was expected to leave for Zimbabwe yesterday, but has to wait a little longer until the documentation of close to 3 600 Malawians is completed at both the Chatsworth and Phoenix holding centres in Durban.
Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa Mr Isaac Moyo said they were hopeful that the host government would deploy more home affairs workers to speed up the repatriation process.
“We have idenfied and documented our people and are waiting for the host government to finalise its processes,” he said. “If they don’t deploy more staff, the process of repatriating these people might take long.”
Mr Moyo said the situation appeared calm in the area.
“We attended a meeting with a number of traditional leaders from Kwazulu-Natal today, including King Zwelithini and he promised to work with other leaders to ensure the safety for migrants within 30 days,” he said.
Speaking during a meeting yesterday, King Goodwill Zwelithini denied that he incited the violence, saying he was misquoted by the media.
Addressing the same meeting where King Zwelithini spoke, South Africa’s Prince Mongosuthu Buthelezi said: “There is no sense in what is happening. A spark has been ignited, and it has taken flame in terrible proportions”.
“The fact is, chasing out other nations will not solve any of our problems, because these are own problems. They are rooted in our hearts.”