Monday, January 3, 2011

Papers out of Poverty - the Zim Dilemma

On Thursday 30 December 2010 I managed to get hold of our gardener and trusted friend, *Michael, a Zimbabwean, and had a long conversation with him about his 'papers' and if he knows what is happening in South Africa. Our Department of Internal Affairs started with a long process to assist Zimbabwean 'foreign nationals' in South Africa to obtain the necessary documents to be legally in the country. Thousands of Zimbabweans cued across our country to meet the deadline of 31 December or face deportation back to Harare.

I am worried for Michael today. He did not go to stand in the cue from 4am to 9pm to be helped by anyone - and it is said that the Department officials' were really helpful (even though 10 000 applicants were already rejected).  He told me: "I have my Aslam (sic) but need to get my birth certificate from Zim..."to apply for a passport (he has no identification with him at the moment!). The news that he did not need his passport to apply did not reach him in time, as this relaxation of requirement was not made known publicly beyond the people in the cues. It is heart-breaking.

I urged him to make this a priority and asked if there is anything I can do to help. I explained about the possible deportation and I could see he is fearful to go back home, where there is no hope of an income for him and his family (that he currently looks after), and little respect for human life.

Neither Michael, nor I or any one of the 1million Zimbabweans without papers know what happens next. Many organisations are making pleas for vulnerable people like Chris who has been fleeing Zimbabwe - and received asylum in the first place. I wish the government of Zimbabwe could realise that its riches are not in minerals and diamonds or land, but in people like the hard working *Michael who seeks only to earn an honest living. 

There is a spreading opinion that 'President' Robert Mugabe is a "prisoner of circumstances" but there are close to 2 million ordinary Zimbabweans that are being forced back to a prison and life of poverty by our own government - surely we could do more, or differently?


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