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22 May 2015 00:00
It’s a devil and a deep blue sea choice for Malawians. Photo: Thulani Mbele, Gallo
It is not if, but when. That seems to be the intention of Malawian refugees who are back in their motherland about returning to South Africa.
returnee, Sangwani Gunda, told amaBunghane he and others expect to go
They’re being told by their South African friends
that calm has returned.
Malawian, who returned to South Africa last week, said most people felt
cheated by their government’s promises that they would
be taken care of once they got home.
promised to put us into technical colleges to learn entrepreneurial
skills and give us capital and equipment to start businesses,”
he said. “When we arrived in Blantyre we were given money for transport
home, a blanket and a plastic bucket. Nobody talked about skills
understands some 70 beneficiaries of the Malawi government’s
repatriation programme, planning to return to South Africa,
were stopped by Malawian immigration authorities at border posts.
return — driven by Malawi’s poverty — threatens to undermine the
200-million kwatcha (R5-million) programme. Malawi was the only
African country to launch a repatriation exercise in April for 3?200 of
its citizens following a wave of attacks on foreigners in which two
Malawians were killed. Five others died in transit to Malawi,
Information Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa told a media conference
The repatriation effortPaul
Chiunguzeni, of the department of disaster management affairs, said
government acted quickly to save Malawian expatriates in South
Africa. “We established a ministerial committee to facilitate
repatriation and ensure that all the victims were brought home safely,”
buses carrying the first group of 390 returnees arrived in Blantyre on
April 20; the last bus, carrying 65 returnees, arrived on
May 15. Malawi’s immigration department records show 3?300 xenophobia
victims have so far returned to Malawi, using 40 buses hired in South
said the government had suspended the exercise until it received
notification from the Malawi high commission in South Africa
that other Malawians living in camps wished to come home. He denied
reports that government halted the programme because people were
returning to South Africa days after having been repatriated.
Ali, the repatriation co-ordinator in Durban, said this week that about
40 Malawians were still camping at the Mariannhill mosque
in Durban awaiting repatriation, while 157 others not in the camps had
approached the Islamic relief organisation Firqatud Dawah for help.
April 30, immigration officers at the Dedza border post detained 27
Malawians who tried to return to South Africa in the bus the government
had hired to take them home. “Although some had valid documents, we
wouldn’t allow them to return to South Africa because government has spent a lot of money repatriating them,” said officer Macfelix Mapemba.
earlier police in Lilongwe detained a KwaZulu-Natal-registered bus
carrying 70 passengers, including six repatriated Malawians.
were acting on a tip-off: passengers had refused to leave the bus
during a garage stop and instead pulled down the curtains to hide
themselves. The driver and conductor bolted when they saw the police.
Many return to SA “daily”On
May 7, immigration officers at the Mwanza border post detained another
South African bus for allegedly smuggling repatriated Malawians
to South Africa.
border spokesperson Pasqualli Zulu said, “All 35 passengers got out and
walked to the border as if they were visiting friends
in Mozambique. It made us suspicious.”
He said 14 passengers were arrested. The rest ran away.
immigration official who asked to remain nameless said “a few unlucky
individuals” had been caught and many others were returning
to South Africa on a daily basis.
director of the nongovernmental organisation Innovations for Poverty
Action, Thomas Chataghalala Munthali, said returnees may
have weighed the options and decided they were doing better in South
Africa. “Malawi is poor ... most of those who go to work in South Africa
are unskilled,” he said.
Malawian said he could not cope with the difficulties he experienced
when he arrived at his home in the southern district of
Phalombe, hard hit by the recent floods.
found my village completely washed away; people have nothing to eat as
the crops were also destroyed. There was no hope. I had no
house and was relying on relatives who were also struggling to find
He is optimistic he will find piecework in South Africa.
said the return of those repatriated was frustrating. “Government did
what it could. It’s sad for them to be returning [so
soon] after arriving.”
said the government couldn’t afford to give returnees extra money.
Civil society organisations in Malawi, including the Centre
for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, have urged the government to
create employment opportunities as a long-term solution to the Malawian
exodus down south.
government says unemployment will be partly solved through a community
college initiative President Peter Mutharika launched in March,
which seeks to train rural youths in entrepreneurial skills that will
make them self-sufficient.
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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.
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