Malawian immigrant still feels like foreigner 18 years later

Johannesburg- South Africa (PANA) -- Malawian Chimaimba Banda has been living in South Africa for the past 18 years but he says he still feels like a foreigner in this land of gold.
"Being a foreigner you are always reminded that you are a foreigner here", says Banda who is employed as a journalist at The Star newspaper.
"I've been here for a long time - 18 years - but I still feel like a foreigner.
There isn't any assimilation", he added.
Xenophobia has regularly reared its ugly head in South Africa, prompting the South African Human Rights Commission to comment that there was "enormous intolerance" towards black foreigners, especially those from Africa, both unofficially and officially.
On Friday Home affairs Director-General Billy Masetlha said his department had intensified its swoops on illegal immigrants.
"We're now arresting up to 20 people a day - instead of about 10 whom we send right back," Masetlha said.
"We used to have deportation trains running every fortnight; now they are running weekly", he said proudly Most of the aliens arrested and subsequently deported are Zimbabwean nationals escaping the political and economic decline in their country.
"At the moment there are almost 2,000 people being held at Lindela (the detention camp for illegal immigrants) and between 40 and 50 percent of these are Zimbabweans," said Masetlha.
Banda's wife is a Zimbabwean from Mbare, a densely populated township in Harare where they met.
Banda recently visited his in-laws in Zimbabwe and was "overjoyed with the warmth of the people".
Earlier this month Banda was assigned to cover the SADC conference in his home country Malawi.
He was happy about the weeklong trip to Blantyre, where he had the opportunity to meet old friends and relatives.
"If I had a choice I would have stayed in Malawi," says Banda.
But he acknowledges the economic benefits of working in South Africa, which has the strongest economy in the region.
"We came here to improve our economic standing.
There is a belief that South Africa is a haven.
That is not a farfetched perception," says Banda who lives in an apartment in the Hillbrow district of Johannesburg.
His four-wheel drive vehicle bears testimony to his rise in status.
"When we came here, we were suffering and we were ready to do anything.
" In the past, black Africans were generally welcomed by the former apartheid regime as a source of cheap labour in the mines, farms and manufacturing industries.
In those days, local South Africans frowned upon working for any establishment they perceived to be beneficial to the "system".
"I came at a time when things were different," Banda said in apparent reference to the change of attitude towards foreigners after the new ANC government took over from the apartheid regime in 1994.
It took Banda ten months to get a job.
He was able to move into a township house in Soweto "where everyone was black and generally poor".
This week police used helicopters, cars and dogs to search the Johannesburg area for illegal immigrants.
Several people were arrested in the swoop.
Police said they had recovered stolen items, including television sets and computers.
They also found a variety of drugs from those arrested.
With the World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia and related intolerance at the end of August, South Africa's human rights groups are hoping to secure a better deal for the immigrants.

27 august 2001 12:18:00

xhtml CSS