Blantyre – The first batch of Malawian xenophobia victims are expected to be repatriated from South Africa on Sunday, a Malawian government spokesman has disclosed.
Meanwhile, the Malawian government has called on continental and regional bodies to intervene in the worsening situation.
“According to latest official reports from the offices of the Malawian consulate and High Commission to South Africa, as of Tuesday, about 420 Malawians were reported to have been affected and were in temporary camps in South Africa,” Information Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa told a press conference in the commercial capital, Blantyre, on Wednesday.
He said the number of Malawians who had been affected “is expected to rise”.
Nankhumwa said the Malawian government had set up two transit camps, one in Blantyre for victims from the southern region and another in the capital, Lilongwe, for victims from the central and northern regions.
He said most of the victims had lost almost all their property, including travel documents, in the attacks.
The Malawian consulate and the high commissioner’s office in South Africa, he said, were working hand in hand with the South African government in monitoring and assessing the situation.
“The Malawian mission in South Africa is conducting the screening process which includes identification of individuals in order to fast-track border crossing as well as identification of an individual’s home of origin,” he said, adding: “The Malawi Government is committed to ensuring the safe return of all Malawians who have been affected by the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa.”
Nankhumwa also said the Malawian government was dismayed by the xenophobia attacks in South Africa and had urged Pretoria to protect foreigners.
“This is unfortunate coming at a time we are working on regional integration. We urge the government of South Africa to protect foreigners,” he said.
The minister also called on continental and regional bodies to intervene.
“We urge SADC and AU to intervene,” he said.
Nankhumwa said Lilongwe would officially write to AU Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma asking her to intervene.
Nankhumwa said officially, so far, only three Malawians had been reported to be seriously injured.
Some Malawians have, however, been calling the Independent Foreign Service in Blantyre from South Africa with accounts of Malawians being butchered before their own eyes.
“I witnessed a friend of mine, Roderick Masanja, from Mangochi, being doused by petrol and being set alight in Durban on Tuesday,” said a caller identifying himself as Samuel Idrissa.
Idrissa said he was based in Johannesburg, but had travelled to the port city to try to rescue his friends.
Minister Nankhumwa told the Independent Foreign Service the government would investigate the claims through the Malawi mission and the Malawi High Commission in South Africa.
“But, officially, we have no confirmed deaths involving Malawians,” he insisted.
Many Malawian young men trek to South Africa in search of work.