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  • Writer's picturerutendo matinyarare

WHAT IS A REFUGEE AND WHY IS SOUTH AFRICA BREAKING INTERNATIONAL LAW?


Picture of MK soldiers marching.
MK soldiers marching in exile where they entered as refugees.

1. A refugee, according to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees adopted in 1951, is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.


Note that unilateral sanctions that were declared illegal by the UN are a form of persecution of civilians by preventing the sanctioned government from offering basic services, economic development, healthcare, food, education, electricity and the right to life.


2. The Convention is both a status and rights-based instrument and is underpinned by a number of fundamental principles, most notably non-discrimination, non-penalization and non-refoulement.


3. Convention provisions, for example, are to be applied without discrimination on the basis of race, religion or country of origin.


4. Developments in international human rights law also reinforce the principle that the Convention be applied without discrimination as to sex, age, disability, sexuality, or other prohibited grounds of discrimination.


6. The Convention further stipulates that, subject to specific exceptions, refugees should not be penalized for their illegal entry or stay.


7. This recognizes that the seeking of asylum can require refugees to breach immigration rules.


8. Prohibited penalties might include being charged with immigration or criminal offences relating to the seeking of asylum, or being arbitrarily detained purely on the basis of seeking asylum.


9. Importantly, the Convention contains various safeguards against the expulsion of refugees. The principle of non-refoulement is so fundamental that no reservations or derogations may be made to it. It provides that no one shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee against his or her will, in any manner whatsoever, to a territory where he or she fears threats to life or freedom.


10. In the end, the Convention lays down minimum standards for the treatment of refugees, without prejudice to States granting more favourable treatment. Such rights include access to the courts, to primary education, to work, and the provision for documentation, including a refugee travel document in passport form.


The South African Government is in Breech of International Law.


11. From studying the above stipulations (particularly points 6, 7 and 8 ), it is clear that Zimbabweans who are being displaced by illegal sanctions imposed by the US, EU, UK, Canada and Australia, are the quintessential definition of refugees.


12. As a consequence, the South African Immigration Act and the ANC’s new approach of using xenophobia as a weapon for their 2024 campaign, point to the South African government reverting to the apartheid government’s disregard for international law.


13. Such disregard includes the South African government labeling Zimbabwean refugees illegal immigrants for entering South Africa without papers after running from the economic degradation caused by sanctions that according to the U.N. are displacing them.


As point 7 and 8 stipulate, a refugee may enter a country illegally and can not be arrested as an illegal immigrant after running from persecution in his country.


14. It also includes the South African government’s push to cancel these refugees' rights to employment by canceling permits such as the ZEP, with the intent of concomitantly deporting those refugees on the basis that they do not have valid work-permits or visas.


This is a clear violation that seeks to deny refugees documentation as required by the Status of Refugees Convention which South Africa ratified in 1996. The hypocrisy of the South African government is shocking when considering that hundreds of thousands of MK and ANC cadres were given entry and documents in African countries in which they entered without passports of visas.


15. More critically, the South African Immigration Act only recognizes externally displaced peoples as refugees when they have been granted asylum documents by the South Africa department of immigration. This again is an abrogation of the protocols relating to the Status of Refugees which define a refugee as anyone unable and unwilling to return to their country due to war or persecution, irrespective of how they enter the host country.


16. According to point 9 that speaks to the principle of non-refoulment, the South African government has been invalidating international law for the past 21 years by imprisoning, detaining, deporting or refoulering Zimbabweans back to a country in which they are being persecuted by deprivation caused by illegal western sanctions acknowledged by the U.N. and the South African government, as illegal.


17. Additionally, the South African government is contravening the Status of the Refugees Convention by denying Zimbabweans or any other refugees, the right to stay in South Africa with the freedom to apply for work; receive justice, healthcare and other basic services, without being discriminated.


The mere requirement that immigrants who could be refugees in South Africa [or any other country], are meant to apply for a work-permit to work, is denial of those refugees’ basic human rights to work, which contravenes the letter of the 1951 Convention Relating to Status of Refugees and other fundamental freedoms of the Universal Bill of [Human] Rights.


18. This problem of South Africa breaking international law, is compounded further when politicians in the republic, drive and incite attacks on refugees, by calling them illegal immigrants in order to derogate the international obligations the government has agreed to render to refugees by ratifying the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.


AfCFTA.


19. Last but not least, South Africa is also in clear violation of the newly signed AFCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Agreement) that it ratified alongside 54 other African countries, as a commitment to drive continental free trade by enabling the free movement of goods, services and people on the continent.


20. Even though the agreement was made to allow free movement of goods, services and people, the South African government continues to encourage the free moment of South African goods, services and people into Africa, while inhibiting reciprocal free movement into South Africa.


21. Amplifying this hypocrisy, the head of the AFCFTA Secretariat is a South African by the name Wamkele Mene, whose country continues to make policies contrary to the spirit and letter of Africa free trade that he administers.


22. So, why does South Africa sign up to international agreements that it has no intention of upholding?


23. Because South Africa wants to use international law to enable it to dominate/monopolize/colonize African markets with white South African made goods, services and skills, while excluding goods, services and black people of other African countries from South Africa to hinder the growth of black Africa. It is the apartheid blueprint of maintaining white domination in Africa through a white controlled South Africa, still at play today under a black government.


African Countries Are Beginning To Also Ignore One Sided Agreements With South Africa.


25. As a response to this unilateralism by South Africa, in April 2022, the DRC joined the EAC (East African Community), citing that it does not see the benefits of focusing on SADC when the bloc seems to only serve the interests of entrenching white South Africa’s dominance upon the region at the expense of regional development and integration.


Not too long after, Zambia also intimated that it might leave SADC for the EAC, after its biggest trading partner in Africa (Congo) decided to join EAC which is better geared to regional integration and black development, rather than advancing one dominant white controlled economy in SADC.


26. Supporting that, just last week, we saw Botswana and Namibia, all members of the Southern African Customs Union and SADC, shut their borders to fresh fruit and vegetables from South Africa because South African regional monopoly is destroying their ability to build their own fruit and vegetable industries.


27. This is a clear indication that South Africa’s domination of SADC (remember, SADC was created to break apartheid South Africa’s domination of the region), continues to follow the pattern of the apartheid government strategy of crippling industry, farming and financial institutions in neighboring countries so that white South Africa can control the region.

Apartheid Strategy Under ANC Leadership.


28. Under the ANC, we have seen white South Africa continue to advance the apartheid strategy of regional domination through the ANC protecting apartheid companies from paying reparations to regional states that were sabotaged by these companies during the border wars.


This was achieved by senior ANC members taking up shares in these apartheid companies, in part, to protect these colonial economic weapons from SADC claims for reparations.


Now, when this is put alongside the ANC’s selective application of international law and them fighting hard to ignore sanctions on Zimbabwe, this enables unjustly enriched apartheid companies (in which ANC members have shares) to subject other SADC countries to unfair competition that destroys neighboring financial systems, industry and farming in a manner that disproportionately grows the South African economy by destroying the economies of neighboring countries.


Then, when this unfair competition and illegal sanctions being enforced by South African entities, destroy the economies of neighboring countries and displace the unemployed as refugees, the same ANC government creating some of the conditions that destroy neighbors and displace refugees, then call those refugees illegal immigrants and incite their citizens to abuse those people.


The Zimbabwean Government Is Not Standing Up For Zimbabweans.


What is then unsettling about this whole issue, is the inability of our government and embassy in South Africa, to stand up for Zimbabweans in this flagrant continuation of the apartheid era Total War on our economy by an ANC government that our soldiers fought to liberate.


When Zimbabwean refugees are labeled illegal immigrants in contravention of international law, our embassy agrees with these illegal designations and thus denies our citizens the protections of the 1951 Convention that the ANC used to enter into our countries without papers during the struggle.


Instead, when Zimbabweans like Advocate Simba Chitando or organizations like ZASM decide to stand up for the rights of these voiceless Zimbabweans (the embassy is not protecting) by suing South Africa’s Home Affairs for trying to deny Zimbabweans the right to work by cancelling the ZEP, or suing South Africa’s apartheid banks for punishing innocent Zimbabweans without trial, by denying them banking services to enforce illegal sanctions; the Ambassador will sabotage the legal process by holding secret political negotiations with the same South African government Zimbabweans are suing [on a matter that is still sub-justice] as if to corrupt the outcome of the court process.


Not only that, but the Ambassador will also actively discourage those that are pursuing the legal action, while encouraging Zimbabwean (state and private) institutions from giving those litigants the evidence needed to win their cases in South African courts.


Whites Working Against The Government Are Treated Differently.


However, when white farmers are taking the Zimbabwean government to South African courts in an attempt to reverse the land reform, these farmers miraculously get sensitive government documents and evidence to use against our government, from the same government and private institutions that deny us blacks, evidence to prove how South African apartheid institutions are illegally implementing sanctions that cripple Zimbabwe.


More annoyingly, in such cases, the Ambassador never summons these farmers to discourage them from suing his government, in the the same way he does to discourage black Zimbabweans from suing South Africans who violate their rights.


As a result, white Zimbabwean farmers have won a number of cases [that in many ways criminalize land restitution] in South African courts, against the Zimbabwean government, with the assistance of some of our civil servants. But when black Zimbabweans are standing up to fight white hegemony, they are denigrated and denied the same support.


The South African Government Never Stops Litigation Against Zimbabwe.


In contrast, we have seen South African companies suing the Zimbabwean government (recently we saw the Oppenheimers suing the Zimbabwean government) and winning, without the government of that country stepping in to stop these legal assaults on their neighbour.


Not only does the government of South Africa never interfere in cases where the Zimbabwean government is being sued by South Africans or cases that are in South African courts, but instead, South African courts consistently rule against the Zimbabwean government as they do against anyone opposing white monopoly.


After Zimbabwe loses in South

African courts, the state-owned media of that country is used strategically to decampaign the Zimbabwean government and ZANU PF.


The apartheid system is still in control of South Africa, and from South Africa it is targeted at crippling black progress in South Africa itself, the region and the continent. As a result, we need more astute Zimbabweans committed to standing up against this racist system, and not to have in our embassies, government officials who are more interested in protecting white interests to advance their individual interests and their children’s rights to live and learn in South Africa, Europe and America.


By the Chairman of ZASM, Rutendo Matinyarare.

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