President Robert Mugabe and his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma have however been accused of letting down immigrants in South Africa — including millions of Zimbabweans — during their crucial meetings last week when Mugabe visited Pretoria for talks on a wide range of issues including trade and migration.
Report says the Zimbabweans government now set to evacuate its citizens from South Africa because about 800 Zimbabweans have been displaced and many killed.
Latest information from sources who attended the meetings shows that Mugabe and Zuma did not privately discuss the wave of xenophobic violence and killings sweeping across South Africa.
Even though Mugabe, who is chairperson of Sadc and the AU, arrived in South Africa when the current attacks had just begun, he failed to muster the courage to raise the issue with Zuma so that the leaders could tackle the matter head-on.
Zimbabwean and South African officials who attended the meetings said Mugabe and Zuma found themselves in an awkward position and took the easy way out by avoiding the issue altogether.
The official said for Zuma it would have been embarrassing as leader of one of the supposedly leading democratic countries in Africa to explain such violent attacks on fellow African migrants.
What also constrained Zuma from raising the issue is the fact the attacks have largely been linked to a statement by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini.
In Zulu tradition, the king takes precedence over the national president when he arrives in the kingdom of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
“President Zuma himself belongs to the Zulu national group and Zwelithini is his respected king.One can understand the constraints of tradition that the subject cannot be seen to be opposing the king, let alone in public,”said another senior government official.
However, it was only after Zwelithini’s reluctant, unconvincing attempt to wriggle out of his incisive statement claiming he was misquoted that Zuma found the courage to tackle the issue.
The sources also said it was equally difficult for Mugabe to raise the xenophobia matter for discussion as a guest in South Africa when the country is accommodating an estimated three million Zimbabweans who ran away from his disastrous policies and leadership.
At a joint press conference on April 8, Mugabe thanked South Africa for its patience in dealing with the problem of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants in that country,while also expressing gratitude that Africa’s second largest economy provided them with jobs.
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