‘It would be an honour to die …’

2008-06-20 00:00

“People know that when they step into Mugabeland they might die. But it would be an honour to die there with dignity rather than to remain in South Africa and die in shame.”

These are the words of a young man (who asked not to be identified) returning to Zimbabwe to vote in the presidential election run-off on June 27. He said 10 Zimbabweans, including his four siblings, will cram into a car and head to the Zimbabwean border from Durban, knowing that they could be in grave danger.

They hope there will be some strength in numbers and that anyone wishing to stop them will think twice before attacking their group.

“We just think that this madness has to come to an end. We know that something has to be done and we want to do it non-violently using the ballot. At least we will know that we tried to make a difference,” he said, adding that while he and his fellow travellers are confident that the majority of Zimbabweans will support the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), there is no guarantee that it will take power.

Since 2004, when he fled to South Africa to escape being persecuted for supporting opponents of the Mugabe regime, he says he has “done everything from working for a security company to trading on the streets”.

Although not a direct victim of the recent xenophobic attacks, he said they have had a terrible psychological effect on him and fellow immigrants.

“You find you have nothing. You cannot trust anyone, you are not wanted and you can’t dream of a life in South Africa. Nothing is certain for me here. I could easily find myself in a cell for being an illegal immigrant. I have no money in my pockets. It is terrible either way so it might be better to just give myself a chance to fight back.”

How you can help someone return to vote?

The Peace and Democracy Project of the Southern African Women’s Institute for Migration Affairs (Sawima) recently launched the “Come Home to Vote” campaign, which has appealed to South Africans to donate money towards getting people back to vote. A return bus ticket costs R600 — way out of reach for a homeless immigrant.

“By returning home, Zimbabweans living in South Africa will be able to provide moral and numerical support to their communities. They will also be in a position to encourage people who were too afraid or too disillusioned in the March 29 elections to exercise their right to vote,” said Sawima director Joyce Dube.

Sponsorship options include assisting an employee with a return ticket, paying for one or more seats on a bus via the www.votezim.com website, or even sponsoring an entire bus. Employers have been asked to at least provide Zimbabwean staff with leave to return to vote.

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