Tough times ahead for Zimbabweans in South Africa

Tito Mboweni
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ZIMBABWEANS based in South Africa face being elbowed out of that country after authorities adopted a nationalistic policy to favour locals on jobs, an official said yesterday.

By Nkululeko Sibanda

Million of South Africans face losing jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak and last week President Ramaphosa announced a R500 billion package to bail out industry and protect jobs.

South African Finance minister, Tito Mboweni, at the weekend, was quoted as having said his government would only provide financial support to companies that would lean towards a new unwritten employment policy that favours more nationals as compared to foreigners.

Mboweni was quoted as saying: “The proportion of South Africans working in a restaurant must be greater than that of non-South Africans… The new economy after lockdown must prioritise South Africans, but this must not discriminate against non-South Africans either.”

He reportedly added: “We will assist those who show a willingness to hire staff from SA… Every spaza shop must be licensed to operate, must have a bank account and registered for tax and open itself up for health inspections from the Department of Health.”

The statement, analysts noted, could become a catalyst for a new round of xenophobic attacks.

In a statement to the NewsDay, Constance Chemwayi, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said Mboweni’s statement was a reflection of the new policy thrust that Zimbabwe’s neighbours could take going forward, adding there could be need to utilise communication channels available to the two governments to settle the issue in the event disturbances broke out in South Africa over jobs.

“The South African minister (Mboweni) mooted the policy trajectory that his government might use,” she said.

“The Ministry (of Foreign Affairs in Zimbabwe) would fully respect the policy position that the government of South Africa would adopt. Every country has the sovereign right to take measures they deem necessary.

“Our two countries and governments enjoy excellent relations and we have mechanisms and channels to discuss matters of mutual interest to our two countries,” she added.

Chemwayi said Zimbabwe was ready to ensure its nationals were safe in the event xenophobic attacks recurred.

“However, in the event that xenophobia attacks ensue, the government of Zimbabwe; through our embassy in South Africa will ensure that the interests of Zimbabweans in South Africa are protected,” Chemwayi added.

In an interview from his base in South Africa late yesterday, Bongani Mkhwananzi, the spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa said Mboweni’s statement could “cause a lot of problems.”

“The minister might have spoken too soon and let the cat out of the bag on an issue that is sensitive. We believe this statement might create a lot of problems for our people (Zimbabweans) who are here in South Africa.

“As a matter of fact, the hotel and catering industry here is in the hands of mostly Zimbabweans. This is because they can adapt to very difficult situations which include strict regulations, low pay, and many other issues.

“There are a lot of exploitative mechanisms that are at play here in South Africa and we wonder whether the locals will be able to withstand the situation, according to the minister’s declaration,” Mkhwananzi said. – News Day