Zimbabwean economic refugees straining SADC – President Ramaphosa

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that the wave of Zimbabwean economic refugees escaping poverty at home is straining southern African countries and called for an end to western sanctions imposed on Harare.

President Ramaphosa said this in response to a question on the challenges of migration during a joint media conference with visiting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Neto.

“The one issue we have often raised, which is another dynamic to this situation (of migration) is that of sanctions that have been applied, especially on our continent,” he said.

“Sanctions applied, for example, on Zimbabwe are having a negative impact not only on Zimbabwe’s economy, but also on a number of countries in SADC (Southern African Development Community).

“They are also having a negative impact on us (South Africa) because as the sanctions weaken Zimbabwe’s economy, Zimbabweans are forced to migrate and to come to our own country and other countries in the sub-region.

“They flock to Botswana, they flock to South Africa, to Namibia and they exert enormous pressure on us.”

Migrants a burden

President Ramaphosa said South Africa is dealing with challenges arising from geopolitics, rising unemployment and inequalities, and cannot therefore carry the extra burden of taking care of Zimbabwean immigrants.

“So we are saying those sanctions should be lifted and we should be able to bolster the economies of these countries so that people can have less of an incentive to leave their countries to go to other countries because their economies would be glowing,” he added.

“Once again, we call on the various countries that have applied sanctions on African countries, particularly Zimbabwe, to lift those sanctions so that the economy of that country can get back on its feet and it can be what it used to be.

“In that way, Zimbabweans who have left Zimbabwe will find it a great incentive to go back to live normal lives in their country.”

Call to lift sanctions

Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, who is also the SADC chairperson, this week issued a statement calling for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.

South Africa this year said it was ending a special permit system that was used to regularise the stay of nearly 200,000 Zimbabwean economic refugees in that country.

The number of such Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa is unknown as they are undocumented, but some estimates put it at over three million.

Zimbabwe blames the embargo that was imposed nearly two decades ago for the collapse of its economy, but the United States and the United Kingdom this week said the country’s woes were linked to years of corruption, poor polices and mismanagement, not sanctions.

Besides the US and UK, the European Union, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have their own set of sanctions against Zimbabwe.

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