Here is an update of relevant news from South Africa and the region from the past week.
South Africa News
Refugees attacked at Home Affairs office in Pretoria – Tuesday 10 April, a security official employed by Home Affairs attacked refugees with a sjambok while they were waiting in line outside the Home Affairs (HA) office in Pretoria. HA has not been renewing documents because they ran out of the specific paper. The situation has turned drastic as refugees start paying bribes to officials who claim to be able to fast track their documents.
South African government owns up to invalid deportations – After the deportation of 125 Nigerians on the basis of false allegations of documentation fraud, the government has finally issued a formal apology. Nigeria accepted the apology, though some tensions remain.
Home Affairs blames its incompetence on immigrants – Mkhuseli Apleni, director general of Home Affairs, was recently accused of making xenophobic comments about foreign nationals. Apleni has claimed that foreign nationals detained at the Lindela Detention Centre lie about their identities and birth countries, delaying their deportation and extending their period of detention. The LRC has called these inaccurate comments “inappropriate and unbecoming of a high level government official.”
Home Affairs continues to refuse to comply with court orders – Lindela, a large holding facility for suspected undocumented migrants, has a well-earned reputation for human rights abuses. Many detainees report that court orders compelling the Department of Home Affairs to release them are being ignored. The facility is hugely overcrowded because detainees are often held beyond the regulatory time limit of 120 days. DHA Director General Apleni did not deny his department’s refusal to comply with court orders.
Home Affairs fails to meet the needs of asylum seekers – The Department of Home Affairs is struggling to meet the needs of asylum seekers, as its top official recently admitted. Fights and stampedes are commonplace in lines outside offices that accept asylum applications. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has expressed concern over how the system in South Africa creates difficulties for those escaping violent and oppressive conditions. The system is fraught with frequent delays, backlogging, inefficiency, and invalid refusals to grant asylum.
Ncube accuses South African immigration officials of racism – After being detained without valid cause at OR Tambo International Airport, newspaper publisher Trevor Ncube tweeted “it’s time South African immigration stopped assuming every black African coming into the country is a desperate criminal”. South African immigration officials have been repeatedly accused of racism, xenophobia and classism.
Mugabe’s denies health emergency reports – Robert Mugabe returned from Asia Thursday, amongst rumors that he had experienced a health emergency. During the past 16 months, the President has flown to Singapore 10 times to receive medical treatment for prostate cancer. Rumors of ill health spread after a Nigerian preacher had a prophecy that Southern African leaders faced imminent deaths.
Zimbabwe stops subsidy agricultural inputs in favor of a market-based financing approach – The new scheme by the Agricultural and Finance ministers centers around a “cost recovery” scheme and seeks to offset food insecurity. The finance minister will make $5 million available to farmers for fertiliser and seeds. An additional $15 million of agricultural inputs will be carried over from the summer season. Analysts say that this plan is not sustainable because farmers will need to find working capital on their own, which, in the Zimbabwean environment, is hard to come by.
Teachers pressure government to include them in indigenization and economic empowerment program – Tendai Chikowore, president of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, called for inclusion in the economic empowerment program, asking the government to extend the services to civil servants. Critics of this demand, including the president of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, said that the payment of salaries should come before demands for empowerment.
President Kabila calls for military defectors to rejoin – Soldiers loyal to former rebel leader Ntaganda defected from the DRC military last week in answer to a call from Ntaganda to join him. Ntaganda wanted the soldiers to bolster his personal protection as the ICC calls for his arrest to face charges of war crimes. Violence is not anticipated due to the military advantage held by Kinshasa, and President Kabila went to Goma in eastern DRC to pressure the soldiers to return.
Joyce Banda sworn in as President after the death of Mutharika – President Banda, Malawi’s first female president, was sworn into office Tuesday 7 April, after two tense days where the government delayed announcing Mutharika’s death. In less than a week, President Banda fired the police chief, information minister, and a top state broadcaster. The President is seeking to normalise relations with donors and to get Malawi back on track.