The first group of 390 Malawians repatriated from South Africa trooped out of the six hired buses under the darkness of Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre last night after spending about 48 hours on the road.
There were mixed emotions of joy and tears.
One by one, they walked in a procession while the injured were immediately rushed to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) for treatment. They were visibly tired, with some literally limping out of the buses.
Their arrival brought to an end days of distress in which two of their compatriots were confirmed killed and several others seriously wounded. About 3 200 are still stranded awaiting their repatriation.
Mostly aged between 18 and 30, some repatriated Malawians, others with babies as young as two months old, could be seen wiping tears of joy. In the group were also heavily pregnant women.
“We applaud the President for the prompt response to bring us home. But as we are speaking, thousands of our relations are still stranded. Please bring them back. They are being cruelly beaten and injured, others have been brutally killed without even knowing where their corpses are,” lamented Amidu.
He said about seven Malawians have reportedly been murdered and 17 seriously injured in the port city of Durban.
After the screening process, they were taken to Blantyre Social Welfare centre at Kwacha where food and accommodation were arranged. They are expected to start going to their home villages this morning.
He said: “We know this is the hardest moment in your lives that was why government quickly arranged for your repatriation. But be assured that government will do everything to ensure that the remaining Malawians are also repatriated. We will also make sure that you all reach you homes from here.”
In a related development, civil society organisations (CSOs) are this morning set to march to the South African High Commission in Lilongwe to present a petition against the attacks on Malawians and other nationals.
The CSOs have also questioned the silence by the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and the African Union (AU) on the anti-immigrant attacks in South Africa.