Monday, September 10, 2007

Zim migrants flood South Africa

"..."We're so frightened to go back to that hunger country, where there's nothing," Peter said as he waited.

His parents died in a bus crash two years ago, Peter said, and he has five younger siblings and no hope of feeding them. Before he left Zimbabwe last month, he and the other children, ages 2 to 12, were eating two or three times a week. In between, he said, the children scoured the bush for any wild fruit they could find.

"It's terrible. You feel sorry for them," Nienaber said before buying some bread and milk for the five illegal immigrants and handing them over to the police. Yet he sees the Zimbabweans who cross his land, cutting his fences and destroying his water pipes, as a threat to his survival.

The tide of Zimbabweans arriving in South Africa, driven by extreme shortages of food and basic goods, has grown into a flood as strong as the nearby Limpopo River in the rainy season.

Zimbabwe used to be one of Africa's most prosperous countries. Its slide into economic chaos under President Robert Mugabe's regime has forced people to make heart-wrenching decisions -- taking their children out of schools because they can't pay the fees, or even leaving them behind while they try to find work in South Africa....

Another game and vegetable farmer, Willem Helm, lost a herd of eland valued at about $29,000 after his fence was cut. He has to employ a man full time just to fix the holes in his fences, he says.

"These people are so hungry; sometimes they have not eaten for four or five days. They don't have a cent on them. They will steal anything," he said. "They do what they have to do to survive. I'd probably do the same.

"But compassion is running out. We are getting frustrated and sometimes getting angry, especially if something is broken or stolen. The situation is so bad that you can't let them go. If I am to survive on my land, then they must go."...

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