School pupils should not try to jump the border into South Africa they might go back “in a coffin carrying flowers on your chest”, Zimbabwe vice president Phelekezela Mphoko, according to a report.
“Don’t rush to South Africa, there’s death there,” said Mphoko, who is a former Zimbabwean ambassador to South Africa, was quoted by the Chronicle newspaper as saying.
“I’ve come to talk to the children. I want you to know one thing. Don’t think there’s life for you across the border… there is nothing for you there.”
Illegal border crossing is a significant — and dangerous — problem for many Zimbabwean communities living on the South African border.
Some locals make it through, but others are robbed or raped by omalayitsha (people who assist border jumpers).
Crocodiles in the Limpopo River are also a threat.
Sate-owned Chronicle reported that Mphoko showed pupils at a school in Bubi district in southern Zimbabwe some photos of people attacked during xenophobic violence in South Africa.
Mphoko said: “If you’re a girl, omalayitsha will detain you at their house… They’ll hire you to their friends and by the time they recoup their money you would have fallen sick and come back home in a coffin carrying flowers on your chest.”
A report released last year showed many Zimbabwe boys in Chikombedzi, Mwenezi and other areas left home after primary school to jump the border in search of jobs.
An online commentator calling himself Jack said: “How bout the two million jobs you promised? Then we can stay.”
The ruling party promised to create 2 million jobs in the run-up to the July 2013 elections, which President Robert Mugabe won.
This is not the first time Mphoko has spoken out publicly against illegal migration to South Africa.
In June last year he said it hurt him as ambassador to see the number of Zimbabweans being sent home in coffins, putting the figure at about 30 every week.