Zimbabwe outraged by SA robbery claims

South Africa’s Police minister Fikile Mbalula. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Zimbabwe has reacted angrily to a South African minister’s claims that its soldiers were behind bank robberies in Africa’s largest economy as tensions between the two countries grow over illegal immigrants.

South Africa’s Police minister Fikile Mbalula drew Harare’s ire on Tuesday when he said Zimbabwean soldiers were fleeing their country to engage in violent crimes in South Africa.

“The Zimbabwean government does not condone criminality by any of its citizens and the law must take its course whenever this is the case,” Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa Isaac Moyo told the African News Agency.

Were regrettable

However, he said Mr Mbalula’s statements were not accurate and were regrettable.

“We cannot accept the many ill-informed elements in the said statement and we deeply regret that they were made without due regard to accuracy,” he said.

Mr Mbalula had claimed that Zimbabweans were behind most violent crimes in South Africa and it was difficult to bring them to book because they were illegal immigrants.

“These are people who come here from Zimbabwe and they cross the line here,” the minister said.

Their fingerprints

“They run away from the military in Zimbabwe and they come here and promote criminality here in South Africa.

“There are Zimbabwean ex-soldiers who are in this country, robbing banks and promoting criminality.

“They are running away from Uncle Bob (Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe).”

Mr Mbalula said it was easy to track down South African criminals because their fingerprints were available on police database.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“In Zimbabwe, once you are a soldier, you are a soldier for life,” Mr Mbalula claimed.

“You can’t get out of it. So to get out of it, they run to South Africa, then they come here and rob banks.

“They are on the payroll of criminals, we can’t trace them. If a South African steals, it’s easy to trace them because I will find you somewhere in the forensics because I have your fingerprints.”

Ordinary Zimbabwean soldiers retire at the age of 50. Zimbabwe has in the past complained that South Africa ill-treats its citizens living in that country.

Latest incidents

Zimbabweans were often caught up in xenophobic violence in South Africa and the latest incidents happened early this year.

Mr Mbalula claimed his statements were not xenophobic, saying he had evidence to back them.

“Zimbabweans are working for us in this country, very good Zimbabweans,” he said.

“They are working in our kitchens, they are everything and so on, highly educated people.

Economic refuge

“If there is anything President Mugabe did, it was to educate his people.

“The people who are working in your kitchens are doctors. They are more educated than you, from Zimbabwe.”

An estimated three million Zimbabweans have sought economic refuge in the neighbouring South Africa owing to the deteriorating situation in their own country.

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