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You cannot criminalise a whole community because of one miscreant


This week Zimbabwe Digital News caught up with the Zimbabwe Community in SA’s Bongani Mazwi Mkwananzi after reports were published about an upcoming Anti-Crime Summit


Briefly, who is Zimbabwe Community in SA. Describe your organisation, membership structures, purpose, and activities

The Zimbabwe Community in South Africa is a non membership based organisation which represents the interests of Zimbabweans that are based in South Africa. We set up a committee that looks at their issues such as documentation and other arrears of interest for Zimbabweans here.

We understand that you organised the Anti-Crime summit. What necessitated this summit?

We are organising the Anti-Crime summit. We believe crime is getting out of hand. We are also victims of crime as Zimbabweans. As we have said in the flyer, the summit’s theme is; Building a crime free environment in our Communities, because we would like to work with law enforcement agencies to isolate criminal elements in our community and we cannot sit and watch while crime ravages our society and affects our people. So we are therefore calling this summit together with law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders to speak to how we can build a crime free communities.

In your own words, what happened at Diepsloot?

Well according to the reports that we saw, on social media and the rest of the media, it is alleged that a Zimbabwean national shot and killed a South African Police Service officer. This then angered the community which then took to the streets calling on government to arrest every undocumented migrant in that community. As we have said in our statement that we condemn the actions of the alleged police killer, but we cannot agree that the whole migrant community is criminal. You cannot criminalise the whole community because of actions of one or two members of society who are criminal.

That is why we are saying to the whole community to stand up and say, No to criminals and criminal activity. Thus, we as responsible citizens are saying within the community we have some good and law abiding community members that continue to contribute to the building of the South African economy.

We understand that you represent people who are working in restaurants, hotels e.t.c and some of them are living in the informal settlements. Some of these people are now having problems with going to work as they are accused of crimes that they did not commit. What is your comment about that type of situation?

The people of Zimbabwe work in various sectors of the economy, The hospitality industry, some are professionals and we know that a number of them are a target of criminal activity and what happened in Diepsloot and other areas does affect them, so this is why we are saying we want to build a society that is free of criminals and we want to isolate criminals out of society.

Who is coming to the anti crime summit?

We hope that the office of the Gauteng provincial police commissioner will be represented at the summit because they are a key stakeholder in the fight against crime. We have invited traditional leadership, we have invited political leadership. We expect that the local councillor who has confirmed will attend the summit. The SACP we know they will be there and the other stakeholders, the church leadership is going to be represented and other social formations will also attend the summit.

How will you make sure that the voices of the people are accommodated during the summit?

The most important thing in our view, is that the summit must adopt an action plan to say how do we
fight or work together in the fight against crime. We hope that we will establish committees in some of
the communities, that will work closely with the Community Policing Forum and that will have a seat
in the CPF so that together with the law enforcement agencies we will share notes on how to isolate criminal elements. We want to bring the business community in the fight against crime because they are biggest victims as well in the crimes that are committed in the communities.

What will happen after the summit?

We hope that the summit will adopt an action plan and then we will set-up some kind of evaluation and monitoring mechanism to ensure that whatever is adopted as a resolution must be implemented and we build safer communities free of criminals.

What is the role of the media in reporting some of the issues that affect Zimbabweans in the Diaspora?

The media must report positively, so that we are not seen celebrating criminal elements. One of the issues that we hope the media will report on, is that is, it is not true that every undocumented migrant is a criminal.

Yes we understand that from the point of view of the South African government, if you are in country and you’re not documented you have violated the immigration laws and therefore you are regarded as a criminal and are subject to arrest and deportation.

But other than that, we have seen people that are not documented that are law abiding citizens. Some of those people were granted an amnesty and given special permits in 2010.

However because of the collapse of the economy in the SADC in general, these migrants continue to lock into South Africa and they find it difficult to be documented because many would fail to meet the immigration requirements which then leads to them working without documentation and getting exploited by their employers because they are not legally in the country.

These are some of the challenges which we face as the Zimbabwean community. We hope that the summit will speak to the issue of of documentation, to say, how do we ask the South African government to implement the white-paper on international migration which speaks to various SADC visas.

Bongani Mazwi Mkwananzi is Spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa. Contact him at +27 73 984 0241.


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