Use silence where it is required and shout where shouting is most relevant

Diepsloot residents demonstrate outside the Police Station against high crime rate in the area allegedly caused by foreign nations before being addressed by the minister of Police, Bheki Cele, 5 April 2022. Picture courtesy: Nigel Sibanda via The Citizen

Silence and appeasement of sadists and narcissists will not guarantee our safety; silence will certainly not save desperate Matabeleland citizens seeking refuge from a vile regime in Zimbabwe who now find themselves targeted by opportunistic South African human trophy hunters. Like vultures, what is essentially a terrorist organisation has set its eyes on our people, we cannot afford to remain silent when people are literally burnt to death for nothing but not having a document that permits them to live and work in the Republic of South Africa (RSA).

Just to give our RSA cousins a brief of our unique circumstances. First, we want to appreciate the government of the RSA for being a great host for Matabeleland people and do hope that will continue till the state set dates. We want to also say we fully understand the RSA government’s duty to secure its borders and uphold its immigration laws.

Second, we want to highlight to RSA authorities and the public that no one runs away from home to seek refuge in another country unless home is the mouth of a shark. This is exactly the state people of Matabeleland find themselves in. The Zimbabwe state is the mouth of a shark to Matabeles, it has never fully embraced our people, they are rejected as foreigners brought in by Mzilikazi (a Nguni) from South Africa. We would also reference in this piece the impact of Gukurahundi atrocities of 1983 to 1984 that left tens of thousands dead and many unaccountable in Matabeleland.

Gukurahundi destroyed and left many Matabeles politically isolated, traumatised, homeless, hopeless and effectively stateless after they were deprived of legal documentation, thus many had to flee to the RSA to find a home, safety and jobs, and these same people are today targeted and hounded by South African vigilante groups to go home. But which home? Many of these people lost everything in Zimbabwe, have made RSA home and have not been to Zimbabwe for decades, there is nothing homely about Zimbabwe for them but persecution and marginalisation.

Our question to the RSA authorities and the public is: where is the compassion, where is uBuntu? Yes, the law is the law, but is legal equal to right? Are all laws right and just all of the time? Recognise yourselves in us as you view your decision about our fate. Right now our lives are increasingly in danger in the RSA yet Zimbabwe does not equate to a safe haven.

We are faced by prejudiced individuals who have made it their mission to use emotion over reason, ignore the rule of law and take action they deem necessary against immigrants. While we fully understand the frustration of RSA citizens over what they see as an overwhelming of their resources by immigrants, we note with concern some disinformation and distortion of facts whose sole purpose is to stir anger among the general public leading to potential indiscriminate violence against foreigners.

There are times when it is better to scream than remain silent; in fact, there are times when silence is the real crime against humanity. Faced by unethical practices and physical aggression including death, silence may not be the most appropriate, let alone effective intervention. We have to be able to change our socio-political posture, to be able to change very dynamically what we are trying to do without losing capability along the way.

We must scream out loud to fend off disinformation and misinformation deliberately spread by terrorists and terror groups to justify ill-treatment of our people. Individuals within the RSA community have waged a campaign to damage and destroy Matabeles’ reputation among their RSA hosts and the international community.

It must be made clear to RSA citizens that any compromise to law and order sets a dangerous precedence that will affect everybody’s safety and security. We accept, like all communities we are not perfect and there are bad apples among us, but we have never condoned crime. We would advise that the arm of the law be the one taking control just as the Head of State has emphasised the need to uphold the rule of law.

Vigilantism poses risk for all involved, its planners, executors and enablers who may, above their target, be victims themselves as violence knows no nationality and knows no bounds; when it starts it burns like a wildfire that even the originator has no control over its reach.  

How a society treats the most vulnerable within its borders shows how developed or undeveloped it is. We do not want a situation where our most trusted and kindest host will be remembered for its silence when its most vulnerable neighbours who sort its protection in their time of need were hounded and killed by vigilante groups than how well it protected us for decades on end.

It is dangerous and unethical for citizens to wrestle authority from state institutions and try to impose illegal sanctions on other humans and that is irrespective of legal status. A Mthwakazi national recently lost his life in what was the most painful and inhumane attack, and so did an RSA young man, both were victims of RSA citizens choosing to usurp the rule of law.

The case of Matabeleland migrants saves as a poignant example of what happens when the international community and regional leaders ignore bad governance in neighbouring states. RSA has become a draw for citizens fleeing tyrannical governments with ineffectual systems and institutions with non-existent oversight. It is understandable that the RSA public has become frustrated at what it sees as the government’s inability to enforce immigration laws including the expulsion of illegal immigrants.

No matter the final decision the RSA makes of our fate, we will never thank the government and its people enough for being selfless hosts over the years. It has never been our intention to undermine the RSA’s immigration rules but, like others before us, circumstances have forced us into this corner where the term ‘illegal immigrant’ is synonymous with many of our people. However, being an illegal immigrant must never justify wanton links with criminal activities, and our rights to fair legal treatment remain. We are responsible citizens who have contributed immensely to communities we live in, and like all citizens we despise criminality. We appeal not only to the RSA government but to the international humanitarian organisations to give us a reprieve to stay as we try to conjure solutions for our troubled homeland.

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