Bulawayo, Zimbabwe â€“ A long, white luxury coach with 48 passengers on board crawls out of its parking depot, destined for Johannesburg, South Africa. The passengers face an overnight journey with lengthy border queues and temperamental immigration officials. Philani Moyo, 25, dreads the wait, but heâ€
Moyo is unsure of what to expect following the recent spate of xenophobic attacks in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal that killed at least seven Africans, including a brutally decapitated Zimbabwean woman. HeÂ told The Daily Vox that on this visit, he would need to be cautious.
â€œI wonder what the mood is like now. South Africans usually have a funny attitude towards Zimbabweans, but with all this violence I wonder if it could be worse. Iâ€
One of many migrants seeking a better life, Moyo is an unemployed graduate hoping to find job prospects in South Africa. With Zimbabweâ€
Closing a regional summit on industrialisation and development, Mugabe, the chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said theÂ rise inÂ migration to South Africa was a question of free will, not political circumstance.
â€œThey are not pushed by government; they go voluntarily. They think South Africa is the heaven, our heaven, in southern Africa,â€ he said.
In response, Chaiye Matanda, 53, a tobacco subsistence farmer, quipped: â€œHow can South Africa not be heaven, when that is how we survive?â€
Thandi Moyo, 33, a sales employee, told The Daily Vox the economy played a major role in migration. â€œOf course itâ€
Further challenging Mugabeâ€
â€œIt is unfortunate that our president and SADC chair is being intellectually dishonest when itâ€
Fleeing political turmoil and severe economic hardship, more than a million ZimbabweansÂ have migrated to South Africa seeking asylum, employment and education over theÂ years. However, the recent wave of xenophobic attacks has led to 800 migrants in KwaZulu-Natal being repatriated back home by the Zimbabwean state; thousands more left for Malawi and Mozambique.
Urging the government to take responsibility for Zimbabweâ€
â€œIt’s sad for those coming back because it’s like jumping from the frying pan into the fire when they find the political and economic situations they ran away from are still there.â€
While the SADC states say they intend to develop co-operation to improve economies and reduce migration, some Zimbabweans are uncertain what relief the governmentâ€
Sitheni Moyo, 34, a milliner, told The Daily Vox she was hopeful, but she didnâ€
Last month, Mugabe attended the Africa-Asia summit in Indonesia, negotiating agreements with China and Indonesia. On his first state visit to South Africa since 1994, MugabeÂ also signed several bilateral agreements expected to benefit both countries, but given the state of Zimbabweâ€