By Sij Ncube
Poverty, increased unemployment and social vices are seen increasing in the New Year if South Africa forges ahead with deportations of undocumented Zimbabweans as South African President Jacob Zuma moves to deal with a myriad of problems bedevilling his own country.
An estimated 3 million Zimbabweans are said to be in the diaspora with about three quarters suspected to be living and working illegally in South Africa.
Last year South Africa introduced new permits for Zimbabweans living in that country who had up to December, 31, 2014 to renew their permits.
According to the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, only 206 170 Zimbabweans had applied for the special permits by the close of the year.
While South Africa says it has put a system in place to document and legalize the stay of Zimbabweans in that country analysts say as with as many things in South Africa, this system is inefficient and corruption ridden, hence the current chaos and deportations threats.
But with South Africa’s officials reportedly giving between 5-60 days Zimbabweans visiting that country after the festive season panic has set in amid mounting fears Pretoria might escalate deportations of foreigners, including citizens that have applied for the new special permits.
Zuma is reportedly under pressure to deliver jobs and basic service delivery to locals as South Africa is facing tough economic conditions with unemployment levels of around 25%.
Opposition parties and activists see Zama’s keeping Zimbabweans in South Africa as a way of trying to help a neighbour “when your own house is burning.”
Rashweat Mukundu, an analyst, said politically South Africa is undergoing serious economic challenges with a sluggish economy and a Rand losing its worth against major currencies, deportations more so targeting Zimbabweans, save as a way of uniting South African people against the “makwerekwere” who are alleged to be taking away jobs.
“To me it is an attempt at internal distraction and the deportations are meant to appease South Africans rather than save any meaningful economic or social purpose,” said Mukundu.
Maxwell Saungweme, a Zimbabwe development analyst based in Afghanistan, said with Zuma facing an economic and social crisis the deportations were expected and their implications were dire and many for Zimbabweans.
The deportations would certainly worsen the unemployment challenges Zimbabwe is facing as all the deportees “coming back will not get jobs,” said Saungweme
“The returnees will also pose pressure on the overstretched social services like health etc. Given that these people will not quickly be absorbed into the labour market where we arguably have over 90% formal unemployment, the likelihood of some of them engaging in negative coping mechanisms like robberies, theft, other crimes and prostitution is very high. So economically, the deportations spell doom to an already dire economic situation,” he said.
President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF administration are seen as clueless on resuscitating the comatose economy which for the past twelve months has been characterised by company closures, liquidations, spiralling unemployment and a severe liquidity crunch which saw some companies failing to pay workers their bonuses.
Politically, Saungweme said Zimbabweans should expect deportees to be active in various political formations, pointing out that these would add in to the numbers if there is going to be a civil strife in Zimbabwe , as people protest hardship and ZANU PF’s misrule.
“Also expect some of the people to be taken advantage of by ZANU PF and hoodwinked to participate in politically-related violence in the run-p to 2018 elections,” he said.