19 Jul 2021

South African expats hold vigil amid unrest, ask New Zealand govt for border exceptions

3:05 pm on 19 July 2021

South African expats are gathering in Wellington and Auckland today to ask the government to consider exceptions for families separated by the closed borders.

People protest against the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, in Johannesburg, South Africa on 12 July, 2021.

People protest against the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma, in Johannesburg, South Africa on 12 July, 2021. Photo: Timothy Barnard / Sputnik via AFP

They say there are humanitarian grounds to allow all partners and families in South Africa to join the expats here following the spate of violence in their homeland.

Unrest swiftly degenerated into looting, which has destroyed hundreds of businesses and killed more than 200 people, driven by widespread anger over the poverty and inequality that persist nearly three decades after the end of white minority rule.

It was sparked by the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma, was sentenced last month for defying an order to give evidence at a judicial inquiry probing high-level corruption during his time in office.

Expats gathered at the steps of New Zealand's parliament this afternoon for a vigil, which was organised by Melody McCabe.

McCabe told Morning Report families here were incredibly worried about loved ones back home.

"I think primarily the goal of today's vigil is to raise awareness about what is happening in South Africa and to show solidarity with all South Africans and who are currently going through this.

"People are terrified, they're worried for their family and friends, and there's a huge amount of uncertainty about what's going to happen in the future."

They were asking the government to consider giving separated families visas to join their partners in New Zealand, she said.

"There were a lot of South Africans who were on their way to New Zealand, who may have been granted work visas and weren't able to come as a result of the Covid lockdown last year.

"So it has certainly affected a lot of people either currently working here who haven't been able to have their partners and children join them, and also those who had firm job offers and sold everything up to come over to New Zealand."

However, McCabe said although the closed borders were main reason behind a lot of the family separations, immigrating to New Zealand in general was proving difficult now.

"I think [for] a lot of immigrants, not just South Africans, but a lot of people who are wanting to immigrate to New Zealand it has been quite difficult for people to follow what the guidelines and the rules are. And it's sort of a continually evolving, changing situation."

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