It is still unclear where Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe plans to settle down if – or when – he steps down from the presidency‚ but if he decided to settle in South Africa‚ it could be costly for South African taxpayers to take him and his family in.
In 2004‚ South Africa gave refuge to ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his family‚ and that cost the country approximately R5-million a year.
“The monthly costs related to his accommodation‚ transport‚ office staff and security are similar to the cost associated with a South African cabinet minister‚” the Department of International Relations said at the time.
It was responding to parliamentary questions posed by the DA.
Aristide stayed in South Africa for about seven years‚ meaning approximately R35-million of taxpayers’ funds were spent on him and his family.
In 2009‚ South Africa took in former Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana and his family‚ when they were exiled.
Unlike the Aristide family‚ the South African government claimed to only be providing security for the Ravalomananas.
They stayed in the country for about five years. It was not immediately clear how much taxpayers spent on them.
The Mugabes are likely to want to settle in South Africa‚ as they are already familiar with the country and reportedly own several properties here. Mugabe’s sons‚ Robert Junior and Chatunga‚ have also spent the past few months in South Africa‚ where they live in an upmarket apartment in Sandton.
Dr. John Akokpari‚ an associate professor in the department of political studies at the University of Cape Town‚ on Monday said that even though opposition parties may be against South Africa granting the Mugabes asylum‚ it would be wise to agree.
“Opposition parties have in the past suggested the simple toppling of Mugabe to decrease the high number of migrants in the country‚ but South Africa needs Zimbabwe more than Zimbabwe needs South Africa‚” said Akokpari.
“Zimbabwe is South Africa’s biggest trading partner in the region‚ and South Africa is constantly looking for areas of investment‚ so it is unlikely that they would ever do anything to annoy Zimbabwe‚” he said.
“That is why when [former President Thabo] Mbeki and [President Jacob] Zuma have gone to mediate‚ they always appear sympathetic towards Mugabe. It is all about the country’s shared history of colonialism and economic relations.”
If the Mugabe family decided not to come to South Africa‚ Akokpari said‚ they could consider heading to Mozambique‚ Angola or Zambia‚ as these nations have historically received ANC and liberation fighters.
“But the chances are higher that they will come to South Africa‚ and South Africa will most likely accept Mugabe‚” Akokpari added.