Zimbabwe has said that it is worried about the continued portrayal of its nationals in South Africa as the worst criminals amid rising anti-immigrant sentiments in the neighbour country.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said on Wednesday that the matter came up at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has expressed concerns over the treatment of Zimbabweans in South Africa, which has witnessed increased attacks on foreigners, some violent.
“Cabinet noted with concern the continued malicious reports on the social media depicting Zimbabweans as the chief perpetrators of crime in South Africa and highlighted the need to consistently supply correct information in the formal media,” Ms Mutsvangwa told journalists in Harare.
“Cabinet would like to assure the nation that government remains committed to ensuring that citizens are given the requisite protection and accorded the necessary dignity.”
In recent months, South African government officials have spoken out against the alleged involvement of foreign nationals, especially Zimbabweans, in violent crimes.
Zimbabwe has the largest migrant population in South Africa as its nationals continue to run away from the political and economic woes at home in search of better opportunities.
South Africa has the continent’s highest prevalence of violent crimes, such as murder, rape and armed robberies.
There are no statistics on Zimbabwean immigrants in South Africa, but President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government revealed this week that over 170,000 of them could be forced to return home in December after the expiry of their special permits.
South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs said that only 6,000 of the 178,000 Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders had applied to renew their special permits before the December deadline.
Pretoria, last year, decided to scrap the ZEP permits that were first introduced in 2009 to cater to the undocumented Zimbabweans and allow the holders to apply for residence and work permits through the normal channels.
Civil society groups have been fighting the move by the government to end the special dispensation in the courts, saying the situation in Zimbabwe has not changed to warrant the immigrants’ return.
South Africa has been under pressure to clamp down on illegal immigrants, with vigilante groups sprouting around the country to push for the removal of foreign nationals.
There have been several marches in South African cities such as Johannesburg against foreign nationals, which has sometimes led to violent xenophobic attacks.