|Zibabwean refugees inside a South African Methodist church: Slate.com|
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa—Givemore Gift Nhidza is not dead.
Over the last year, several newspapers have reported that Nhidza, a political activist in Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change opposition party, is dead. But he is alive, and like 3 million other Zimbabweans, he is living in South Africa until the day he can return home without fear of being killed or going hungry.
South Africa's refugee population is massive. In 2009, the country received more than 222,000 new asylum requests, according to UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, making it the No. 1 asylum destination in the world, ahead of the United States, Sweden, France, and Germany. Africans go to South Africa to escape violence and poverty because it is a beacon of stability and economic growth on the continent. They arrive by bus after journeys that last weeks from countries such as Congo, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, and Tanzania. When they get close to the border, those without legal papers walk through the bush and swim across rivers to avoid being sent back.(Click here to read the full story on the Slate Magazine website.)