Zimbabwe’s Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, David Musabayana, says the killing of Elvis Nyathi by a vigilante group in Diepsloot almost a month ago was “a question of mistaken identity” and the South African government has apologized for the gruesome murder.
Responding to a question in parliament on Thursday posed by Senator Tichinani Matevera on Zimbabwe’s engagement with South Africans following Nyathi’s death and general violent activities targeted at foreigners, Musabayana said his government is concerned about such incidents.
According to the latest edition of the Hansard, Musabayana said, “… The facts that we gathered are that in this particular incident, the perpetrators of the violence were looking for a particular individual who they thought was engaging in illegal activities like stealing. So it was a question of mistaken identity, according to the facts that we got from the people who attended the scene. Over and above that, with this mistaken identity, these perpetrators of violence against a Zimbabwean took the law into their own hands. It is not even within the laws of South Africa but a violation of the South African law because they took the law into their own hands - maybe what they call ‘self help’, which was inappropriate.”
Musabayana said the government of South Africa has apologized over the killing of Nyathi, who was beaten up and set on fire by the vigilante group in Johannesburg’s Diepsloot township.
He said President Cyrial Ramaphosa “categorically stated that it was not the culture of South Africa to murder people in cold blood. So these perpetrators were mere criminals who murdered a Zimbabwean. Yes, it is also true that there are xenophobic attacks in the area. Even in the Limpopo area, in Cape Town and several other areas, there are reports of xenophobic attacks or the activation of these negative sentiments of xenophobia against Zimbabweans. Actually, it is targeting Zimbabweans where there are allegations that Zimbabweans are taking up their jobs.
“So as a Government, we are engaging South Africa but South Africa is saying no, we do not condone such acts of violence and inhuman acts of arson, and killing people. We are engaging, and South Africans are our brothers. We believe with more engagement and more education, the South Africans are also going to realise that we are strategic partners because we have huge trade happening between us. Zimbabwe is the biggest trading partner of South Africa, and besides trade partnership, we import – it is in the negative in terms of Zimbabwe where we import more from South Africa than their export to us. This means that we are creating employment for the South African economy.”
Musabayana said he has already told his counterpart in that country that South Africans should not view Zimbabweans as people who are stealing their jobs.
“I highlighted that issue that South Africans should not view us as robbing them of their jobs because as it stands, our economies are co-joined in some respects where some value chains from South Africa extend into Zimbabwe. If Zimbabweans stop those value chains, it means that even the South African economy will scream, and South Africa’s employment would also be affected. So it is a question of understanding and continuous education of our South African counterparts so that they get to appreciate it.
“The other issue that we are also dealing with is the issue of Public Relations also from the Zimbabwean side where they must also appreciate that we may have different work ethics. You must also have the wisdom when you are working in an institution so that you do not look like you are out-shining everybody to the extent that you become the preferred labourer. So that is also creating problems in some of the winery plantations where most Zimbabweans are employed. Apparently, the leadership also prefers Zimbabweans to South Africans. So we continue to engage, but it is not the attitude of South Africa, policy or culture of South Africans to kill Zimbabweans because we are the same people.”
Reacting to a similar question posed by Senator Khaliphani Pugeni, Musabayana said there are elevated xenophobic attacks through cyber bulling activities in South Africa and other nations.
He said some organizations like Operation Dudula, are using social in denouncing and encouraging fellow citizens to harass and intimidate Zimbabweans.
Musabayana said, “Our people are no longer comfortable staying in those countries … As a Government, we continue to engage South Africans and also to encourage them to behave as Pan Africanists. As Pan Africanists, we are the same family and we must cohabitate. When you look at our people working within the region, this is not a new phenomenon. It has happened even during the colonial times. This is why we talk of Wenera and so forth. Even here we have people from other countries coming to work in Zimbabwe, but we have never encouraged such a negative sentiment which is tantamount to xenophobia. We continue to preach the good news to those who are perpetrating violence.
“It is not within the policy of South Africa to chase away Zimbabweans, to harass, punish or get involved in any act of violence that violates Zimbabweans or any other citizen in that country. We believe these are criminal elements and at times they are linked to the former colonialists or some people who have been trying to avenge the land reform by inciting acts of violence. It is not within the Government policy of South Africa. Like I said before, the highest level of diplomats in that country with the chief diplomat of South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa apologised and denounced such acts of violence. Of late, they have been dispersing any gathering that involved xenophobic attacks. So we continue to engage and our embassy in South Africa continues to engage the South Africans whenever we believe there are some acts constituting xenophobic attacks.”
Operation Dudula says all Zimbabweans living illegally in South Africa should leave the country before the end of this month or face unspecified action.