Wednesday, September 05, 2007
A STUDY conducted in South Africa has revealed that journalists have been grossly exaggerating the number of people migrating from Zimbabwe to the neighbouring country. According to a South African Press Association report yesterday, findings of the research by the Forced Migration Studies Programme and Musina Legal Aid were released on Tuesday at Johannesburg’s Witswatersrand University.
"Recent statements by officials and media reports exaggerated the numbers of Zimbabweans moving across into South Africa or already in the country," reads an excerpt from the report.
The study said journalists were often hard-pressed to supply figures, but that even the South African government "did not possess a reliable estimate" of how many foreigners were in that country — including Zimbabweans.
"Although perhaps best encapsulated in the common reference to the provocative image of a Zimbabwean ‘Human Tsunami’, these claims also involved numeric speculation," the report continued.
Fabricated news reports have been used by sections of the South African media hostile to Harare and the opposition Press in Zimbabwe to stir the South African government into joining the British-led regime change agenda.
Mr Darshan Vigneswaran, who presented the results of the study, repeated the fact that the concept of Zimbabweans crossing the border to work in South Africa was not new.
Even before Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, hundreds of blacks from the then Southern Rhodesia went to work in South Africa’s gold mines, referred to as ‘Wenela’.
However, Mr Vigneswaran acknowledged that there had been "increased movement’’ in the past few years.
"Recently this situation has been transformed into a sense of a crisis," he said.
The researcher attributed this to conflicts with farmers and the intervention of South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance in this debate.
"I think mostly because of the pressure upon many media reporters to attach a number to the quite dynamic phenomena that they witness, we see almost any number given credence in a number of different (media) reports," he said.
South Africa’s neo-apartheid opposition has been at the forefront of a demonisation campaign against Zimbabwe. The white-dominated opposition was angered by Zimbabwe’s decision to embark on a fast-track land redistribution programme that corrected a racially skewed land ownership pattern.
The latest report also says there were concerns that the media did not cite sources of figures of people migrating to South Africa. Neither do journalists cross-check the authenticity of such figures.
While the report gave no indication of what the figures were, it said authorities had been "ramping up their response to informal movement" along South Africa’s border with Zimbabwe. This included increased police and army patrols since December 2006.
The report’s findings also indicated that there was little evidence to suggest that the informal crossing had led to an increase in crime in the border areas. Neo-apartheid propagandists in South Africa have often attributed that country’s high crime rate to what they claim is an influx of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants.