Status on the Problem of the Influx of Refugees from Zimbabwe to South Africa

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

 FOR ORAL REPLY

QUESTION NO: 239

PUBLISHED IN INTERNAL QUESTION PAPER NO 26 OF AUGUST 2007

 Mr A J Leon (DA) to ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs:

 (1) With regard to the recent statement made by her Deputy Minister that the influx of Zimbabwean refugees was a serious problem requiring action (article attached), what steps has the Government taken to deal with this problem;

(2) whether such steps are adequate to the exigencies of the situation; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details;

(3) whether any progress has been made with the Southern African Development Countries (SADC)-sponsored initiative to resolve the (a) political and (b) constitutional issues in Zimbabwe; if not, why not; if so, what progress;

(4) whether such progress has had any impact on the situation averred to by her Deputy Minister; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details? NO1813E

REPLY:

 (1)               There are increasing reports of a growing number of Zimbabweans coming to South Africa legally and illegally. This is a consequence of many challenges facing the Zimbabwean people and it underscores the importance of helping the Zimbabweans to meet their challenges so that Zimbabweans will not find it necessary to come to South Africa.

The South African Government has established a Task Team comprising various National Government Departments and led by the Department of Home Affairs to draft a Contingency Plan to deal with the flow of migrants from Zimbabwe. This Task Team also works with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The majority of citizens from Zimbabwe coming into the country are economic migrants and not refugees/asylum seekers. The South African Government has in conjunction with the relevant Zimbabwean authorities strengthened border controls to deal with illegal border crossings.

The current socio-economic situation in Zimbabwe manifesting itself in various ways needs to be addressed. In this reg ard, the SADC-led mediation process forms the basis for a regional effort to deal with the political and socio-economic challenges facing Zimbabwe.

(2)              The various measures taken by SADC including the facilitation of dialogue between the ruling ZANU-PF and the Opposition parties by President Mbeki and the mandate of the SADC Executive Secretary to undertake a study on the economic situation in Zimbabwe as well as the recent SADC decision to mandate SADC Ministers responsible for Finance to draw up an economic plan to support Zimbabwe using the Report of the Executive Secretary on the Zimbabwe economic situation in consultations with the Government of Zimbabwe constitute a comprehensive response to the various challenges facing Zimbabwe.

(3)               Progress has been made with the SADC-sponsored initiative as recognised by the recent SADC Summit held from 16-17 August 2007 in Lusaka, Zambia. The Summit was briefed that the negotiations between Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and both factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were progressing smoothly. This was welcomed and the parties were encouraged to expedite the process of negotiations and conclude work as soon as possible so that the next elections are held in an atmosphere of peace allowing the people of Zimbabwe to elect the leaders of their choice in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. As mentioned above, SADC Finance Ministers were further mandated to draw up an economic plan to support Zimbabwe, based on the Executive Secretary’s report and consultations with the Government of Zimbabwe.

(4)          South Africa’s engagement on Zimbabwe through SADC is still work-in-progress and it is premature to comment on its impact at this stage. The South African Government is closely monitoring the situation in Zimbabwe in conjunction with the SADC intervention initiative as facilitated through President Mbeki. It is only fair that the outcome of this intervention initiative is awaited and appropriate proposals can then be made and implemented accordingly. What is vital though is that the opposition become part of the efforts to find a solution in the interests of the Zimbabwean people and not simply to seek political mileage.



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