Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

Sexual Rights & Citizenship, South Africa, Zimbabwe

Sexual violence at the Limpopo River

Armed gangs operating on the South African side of the Zimbabwe/SA borders are terrorizing women young girls and men. If there are men crossing they are forced to rape other members of the group. After raping the women are stripped and tied up on the side of the road. So far this year 142 women have sought medical treatment following rapes but the actual numbers are probably much higher. The article points out the massive discrepancy between the 53 billion rand spent on four weeks security for the world cup and the zilch spent on protecting vulnerable Zimbabweans at the country’s borders or on protecting people from xenophobic attacks in other parts of the country. South Africa has completely broken down, lost direction and lost its purpose. sense of purpose and leadership

While special courts set up for the World Cup offered rapid justice for fans visiting the country, the police seldom register sexual violations along the border, and nobody has been prosecuted for the attacks. The South African government spent 53.5 billion rand, or six percent of the country’s budget, on stadiums and transport infrastructure. Along the border Zimbabweans were met only with humiliation.

Despite ending deportations last year, South Africa’s treatment of Zimbabweans is partly to blame for their vulnerability, says MSF. In a country where domestic workers earn on average R75 a month, most Zimbabweans cannot afford the R1100 needed to buy a passport, leaving people with little choice but to cross the border without documents, and dependent on the very criminals who rob and rape them. Once they cross many apply for asylum status.

“Most of the people say political problems as such are not the issue, it is economic problems.” says Thabe Mogoboya from Lawyers for Human Rights, a legal organisation that works in Musina. Coming to South Africa, “is a recipe for a better life. But if this is the case, your claim for asylum is unfounded according to the refugee act,” he says.

The asylum process allows people to stay for 30 days while their case is decided, but 99% of cases are turned down. Even with the option to appeal it is a system that fails to recognise the reality of migration between the two countries, says Lepaih from MSF.

Worse still, the systematic nature of the sexual violence, regardless of gender, may suggest the collaboration, or at least tacit consent, of border officials and police officers, says Thabe Mogoboya, particularly on the Zimbabwean side. “It needs both governments to say let’s do something about this problem,” he says. “More so when there are allegations that the Zimbabwean soldiers are involved.”

For a country anxious about foreigners, turning a blind eye to systematic abuse along its border is a way of dissuading further migration.

About 300 Zimbabweans, like Moyo, file for asylum at the Department of Home Affairs in Musina every day. Hundreds more cross without papers and are never registered.