Cape Town – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who also chairs the Southern African Development Community and the African union, has come under fire over his silence, as xenophobic attacks targeting foreign nationals spread from Durban to Johannesburg.
According to News Day, anxiety and anger gripped Zimbabwe, with opposition politicians and social commentators criticising Mugabe’s Zanu-PF government for taking long to react to the attacks.
At least five foreigners, including a 14-year-old boy, have been killed in attacks since violence erupted last week.
Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi was quoted in media reports as saying at least one Zimbabwean had died and a total of 800 had been displaced by the xenophobic attacks.
Ousted former vice president Joice Mujuru and United States-based Zimbabwean musician Thomas Mapfumo criticised the government for taking too long to react to the attacks and repatriate its citizens.
"I had a heartbreak after watching how my people are suffering in South Africa," Mujuru was quoted as saying.
A former Mugabe ally, Rugare Gumbo said Mugabe was reluctant to repatriate the affected Zimbabweans back home for fear that they would demonstrate against his government’s failure to provide them with jobs.
"Mugabe thinks that most Zimbabweans in South Africa are MDC-T and would rise against him if they come back," Gumbo was quoted as saying.
This comes as Malawi earlier this week indicated it would repatriate its citizens from South Africa following the deadly xenophobic attacks.
A group of Zimbabwean lawmakers on Wednesday delivered a petition to the South African embassy in Harare, asking for action to be taken against the wave of recent xenophobic attacks.
Jessie Majome from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, who led the delegation of six MPs from across Zimbabwe's political divide, said South Africans "can't have their cake and eat it".
"Here in Zimbabwe we support South African businesses, which sell goods and conduct trade. The South African people can't have their cake and eat it," Majome said.
Over 1 000 foreigners in Durban have fled their homes and are now living in temporary camps, under police guard.
Violence against migrants from other African countries is common in South Africa, with locals accusing foreigners of taking their jobs and business.
The government has condemned the violence, with President Jacob Zuma sending a team of ministers to assess the situation.