11 August 2007
Zimbabweans head south
Zimbabweans opt for hardship in South Africa rather than hopelessness at home
ON A dirt road in Weipe, a farming area in South Africa on the banks of the Limpopo river about 60km (37 miles) west of the busy Beitbridge border post, a few cars are waiting. Unemployed South Africans try to make a bit of money driving Zimbabweans—either locally employed or freshly arrived from across the river—wherever they want to go. But business is hard, as many new immigrants have no money. And there is also the risk of being arrested by the police for transporting people without visas.
When a police car duly arrives, the few bystanders hoping for a ride quickly vanish into the bush. Two friendly policemen stop the vehicles driving past, checking the passengers’ papers. Six illegal Zimbabweans are picked up and ushered into the police car. They will be driven to the military base south of Musina, the nearby town, and deported within 24 hours.
Nick van der Vyver, who heads the office of the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration on the Zimbabwean side of Beitbridge, says that so far this year an average of about 570 deported Zimbabweans cross his threshold every day. The figure is higher than last year’s, and is probably far smaller than the number of those who do not get caught. Of those who do, most will probably be back on the South African side of the border within a few days; sealing over 200km of border is almost impossible. They add to the thousands who cross legally, in both directions.