Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has ruffled a few feathers among lobbyists against the renewal of Zimbabwean work permits.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Malema said he was prepared to lose votes if it need be but he would never turn his back on Africans to “please the white minority”.
“The EFF can do internal research to see how much this thing is hurting us, but I am not prepared to take a platform to say ‘foreigners must go’,” said Malema.
South Africans are set to march against Zimbabwean permit renewals on 24 November, as many do not want to see the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) being renewed, citing the high unemployment rate in South Africa.
March convenor and activist Tshidiso Rantsa said the #NoToZimWorkPermits and #PutSouthAfricansFirst campaigns were not xenophobic acts towards foreigners but a cry to the SA government to prioritise its citizens.
“What kind of country issues work permits to thousands of foreign nationals when more than 75% of its youth are sitting at home without jobs? When we try and say something, we are labelled xenophobic for putting ourselves first,” Rantsa said.
This planned protests come after the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit Holders Association’s Simba Chitando said more than 250,000 Zimbabweans had asked the high court to declare them permanent SA residents, following the expiry of their ZEPs.
“The applicants seek the rights of permanent residency, without a date of expiration, because they have been permanently residing in the country for over 10 years.
“The ZEP permit, in its current form, deprives the holder of the rights of a person permanently resident in the country.”
The ZEP, as it is, exploits Zimbabwean labour, he said, by withholding such rights.
“It is effectively a slave permit,” he added.
Earlier this month, Botswana announced it would enforce the Industrial Development Act of 2019 and its regulations of 2020.
The law aims to restrict business activities to locals and has listed 21 businesses ranging from bread, confectionery to furniture as “protected”.
Several South Africans in support of deporting Zimbabweans commended the Botswana government for putting its own citizens first.
In August, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa tweeted that Nespresso would be partnering with Zimbabwean farmers to revive the country’s coffee industry.
But he was careful to say the farming opportunities would only be extended to Zimbabweans.
The tweet received mixed reactions, with some Zimbabweans hailing the news as a good development. In contrast, others expressed their suspicions that rampant corruption in the Zanu-PF government would see the deal failing.
South Africans, on the other hand, were quick to point out that Zimbabwe prioritising its own citizen’s was something to be proud of, but when South Africans want to do the same, they are labelled “xenophobic”.
Patriotic Alliance leader Gayton McKenzie said on Newzroom Afrika on Wednesday that locals at grassroots levels were growing restless with the situation.
“People on the ground are angry with the influx of foreigners,” said McKenzie.
He said low-skilled South Africans were battling to enter the informal economy because foreigners with college degrees were working in those positions.
“If I was the president, I would go after the illegal foreigners and then the legal ones,” said McKenzie.
Additional reporting by Reitumetse Makwea