ZAMBIANS living in Durban have praised Government for showing concern for its citizens in the wake of the violence against foreign nationals that has rocked some parts of the city.
It has, meanwhile, also further been established that no Zambian has, so far, been caught up in the violence which started almost two weeks ago. This came to light during meetings in Durban between Zambians resident in the city and officials from the Zambia High Commission in South Africa. Those met said they were not aware of any Zambian in Durban or other parts of South Africa that had been injured or killed in the xenophobic attacks.
Mr. Mulenga Chilufya, vice-president for Tiyende Pamodzi Zambia Association, an organisation of Zambians living in Durban, said the members were impressed with Government’s timely intervention to send its officials to Durban to assess the situation.
“It is indeed gratifying that officials from the High Commission have been brave enough to come to Durban to check on us even with these reports of violence. We are indeed grateful to our government,” Mr. Chilufya said.
The visit also established that no Zambian is in a situation that would warrant evacuation by the Government following the attacks on foreign nationals.
And a check at temporary camps where foreigners who have fled the violence are being kept by South African authorities revealed that there were no Zambians who have gone there to seek refuge. Site Manager, at Westcliff grounds camp in Chartsworth, Mr. Bheka Mbuthuma said the camp had about 1, 500 inhabitants comprising Zimbabweans, Malawians and Mozambicans.
The delegation from the Mission comprises Zambia’s Deputy High Commissioner to South Africa, Mr. Joe Kaunda; First Secretary for Political Affairs, Mr. Josephat Sakala; First Secretary for Immigration, Mrs. Joyce Chimalilo and First Secretary for Press & Public Relations, Mr. Nicky Shabolyo.
Mr. Kaunda told a group of Zambians on Saturday that President Edgar Lungu has taken personal interest in the matter and has constantly been in touch with Zambia’s High Commissioner to South Africa, His Excellency Mr. Muyeba Chikonde, from the time the violence broke out and that the President was happy that the Mission dispatched officers to Durban.
Mr. Chikonde has also been in frequent touch with Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Harry Kalaba.
Mr. Kaunda said the High Commission had to travel to Durban because of the concerns that it had about the safety and well-being of Zambians in the area.
Mr. Kaunda said the Mission has been proactive and has since held meetings with Zambians in Gauteng and taken various other steps aimed at ensuring that everyone felt safe. The High Commission issued a travel advisory which it has also placed on its website and Face Book page.
“The Government is concerned because every Zambian counts. We have been in touch with people in all corners of this country and indications are that no Zambian has been attacked or died in this violence. We are also liaising constantly with the South African authorities and I wish to assure you that they are making all necessary efforts to ensure the safety of foreigners in this country,” Mr. Kaunda said.
South Africa’s International Relations Minister, Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, on Friday convened a meeting of African diplomats accredited to that country during which she assured that her government was in control of the situation.
Mr. Kaunda appealed to all Zambians in South Africa, particularly those farther from Pretoria, to take advantage of the online registration exercise launched last year so that they were properly accounted for. “We launched an online registration process last year and for you resident in places that are far from the High Commission, I urge you to utilise this facility and register because we would like to know about your presence here not only in times of trouble but also so that we can facilitate for you to go back to Zambia where you can apply your skills.”
Mr. Kaunda also told the group that President Edgar Lungu’s administration has been hard at work to ensure that the Diaspora Policy was worked on and quickly implemented. The policy is meant to facilitate and create opportunities for Zambians in the diaspora so that they can contribute to various national affairs.
He said the team was in Durban to ascertain the situation relating to the xenophobic violence and see how it could assist those who wanted to return to Zambia.
And Mrs. Chimalilo pointed out that, apart from facilitating the repatriation of Zambians, the team was in Durban to conduct consular clinics. She urged Zambians in South Africa to ensure that they regularised their stay by obtaining all the necessary documentation.
And Mr. Sakala emphasised the need for Zambians to be conversant with the country’s laws and culture. He urged the Zambians to ensure that they familiarised themselves with the new South African immigration laws.
During a question and answer session, the Zambians urged Government to introduce a system that will allow them to renew their drivers licences and national registration cards without having to travel back to Zambia. They also expressed displeasure over the new South African immigration laws which, among other things, required that they return to Zambia when renewing their permits.
They appealed to the Zambian government to engage their South African counterparts as the new laws did not favour Zambians.