Firebrand war veteran and former Zanu PF legislator Margaret Dongo, pictured, has blamed the gruesome xenophobic attacks in South Africa — which have affected tens of thousands of desperate Zimbabweans living there — on President Robert Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s “gross misrule” of the past 35 years.
In an interview with the Daily News yesterday, Dongo said while xenophobia could never be condoned wherever this happened, the incontrovertible fact was that Zimbabwe’s endless political and economic crises due to Zanu PF’s misrule were “the real reason” why Zimbabweans were living as refugees in South Africa and other countries around the world.
She described as “a shame” the fact that Zimbabwe was marking 35 years of independence from Britain tomorrow while life for ordinary Zimbabwean was comparatively worse than it was in minority ruled Rhodesia — with the country’s unemployment rate standing at more than 90 percent and industries closing weekly.
Dongo also said it was lamentable that while other relatively poorer countries, in terms of natural resources, such as Malawi had already put in place concrete plans to evacuate their nationals from South Africa, the broke Zimbabwean government was “largely talking” about the need to help its citizens.
“It is Zanu PF that is to blame for these xenophobic attacks on our own sons and daughters because they have driven people outside because of their poor policies.
“They are the ones who have caused hardships and the high unemployment rate, and they do not care about anyone because they are busy looting and building expensive mansions for themselves,” Dongo said.
Dongo spoke after Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi told the media on Wednesday that a Zimbabwean had died while 800 more had been displaced in the ongoing mayhem in South Africa, figures that pressure groups say are conservative considering the millions of Zimbabweans who eke out a living in that country.
Up to three million Zimbabweans, most of them illegal migrants, are estimated to live in South Africa — with South Africans routinely blaming foreigners of not just squeezing them out of scarce job opportunities, but also engaging in crime.
To underscore the dire situation in the country, economists have pointed out the horror fact that average incomes in Zimbabwe are now at their lowest levels in 60 years, with more than 76 percent of the country’s families now having to make do with less than $200 a month, well below the poverty datum line of more than $500.
In addition, it is projected that the economic malaise bedevilling the country will worsen this year and beyond, as Mugabe and his Zanu PF continue to demonstrate their gross incapacity to fix things.
Dongo said her erstwhile comrades in Zanu PF had elected “to bury their heads in the sand” when the ordinary people that they had driven out of the country due to their “disastrous policies” were trapped “between a rock and a hard place across the Limpopo”.
So bad was the situation, she added, that many Zimbabweans “dreaded the prospect” of coming back home because there was “nothing to come back home for” and thus would rather face death, xenophobia and uncertainty in South Africa.
“Those who are investing and building mansions in Zimbabwe and South Africa should be asked to focus on investments and their assets outside should be frozen. They should also be investigated to establish the source of their money kuti vaiona kupi (to establish how they massed their wealth),” Dongo added.
The country has been abuzz over the past few weeks owing to reports that the nouveau riche are building mansions both at home and in neighbouring South Africa as they choose to settle and invest in a more stable country.
Dongo said it was time that the anger of hungry Zimbabweans was turned towards the authors of the present hardships.
“Enough is enough, we cannot watch our children and friends die in this manner while the children of the powerful go to areas or countries where they are protected,” she said.
She said, ruefully, that freedom for the majority of Zimbabweans only existed “in theory and on the lips of rented crowds”.
This was the reason, she said, why the country urgently needed to take stock of why so many young people had chosen to sacrifice their lives and participate in the liberation struggle in the 1970s.
“Ndozvakafira vana kuhondo izvozvi zvekunoita nhapwa munedzimwe nyika (Is this the reason why our children died during the war to be serfs in other countries)?” she asked rhetorically.
Dongo also charged that most of the genuine war veterans who were still alive were wallowing in “abject poverty”, which was unnacceptable.
“And we have our anniversary on Saturday. What is there to celebrate, ndikokunonzi kupenga (celebrating independence in this State is madness),” she said.