The Covid 19 pandemic that has gathered tremendous momentum across the whole world over the last 12 months has brought havoc and disruption to the everyday life of many people. Lockdowns have been enforced across the globe to try and slow down the spread of the virus. In Zimbabwe, where more than 80% of the population survive on hand to mouth activities staying at home has been an impossible option. For long most of the population has relied on remitances from their family members who are erking a living outside the country . (the so called diaspora) for food and general upkeep. Zimbabwe has acknowledged that over 30% of it's foreign currency inflows come from diaspora remittancies making it a major contributor to the national economy. Over 3 million zimbabwean are known to be emigrants to other countries with the majority of them in neighbouring South Africa and Botswana. Hundreds of thousands of others join the "Great trek" southwards and westwards continuously while those already there occasionally have to pay a visit to their loved ones back home. These sujourns have been seriously disrupted by lockdowns at home and abroad making life a real challenge for many.
How is the life of a Zimbabwean emigrant?
As Zimbabweans leave their homes in droves in search of better lives for themselves and their loved ones they left at home they endure many challenges brought about by covid 19 lockdowns both in their conutry and in neighbouring countries. The stringent cross border requirements which include expensive to get covid 19 free certificates make it extremely difficult for people to survive with some even risking their lives crossing the flooded crocodile infested Limpopo river in an attenpt to cross into South Africa. Thousands of emigrants spent days at the BeitBridge border post from the new year as authorities demanded strict adherence to new covid 19 regulations with the South African Minister of Home Affairs even declaring the border a covid 19 hotspot as dozens test positive to the corona virus. Not a word could be heard from the Zimbabwean authorities leaving the emigrants all by themselves. Even those that manage to cross often find their jobs gone as companies are forced to retrench or close down forcing them to survive in the streets.
Coming back home - a personal experience.
December is a time when many Zimbabwean emigrants come back home to be with family and other loved ones. Like many others yours truely had to find her way back home from South Africa when schools closed in December 2020. As usual during the festive season the Beit Bridge boarder post was congested and not an option as a crossing point on 19 December.
My crew had to avoid the Beitbridge border by driving via Botswana. The border between South African and Bostwana was as expected not congested at all. The Bostwana authorities were strict on adherence to covid 19 requirements. They insisted on the lancet type PCR tests which were going for 850 rands which we were fortunate to have but were beyond the reach of many Zimbabweans who had to endure the inconvenience of being denied entry into the country.
The Plumtree border on the Zimbabwean side on the other hand was packed. The process of checking the covid 19 certificates by the Zimbabwean officials was flawed. The official declared that our certificates were fake. We asked them to go online and check the reference numbers on the lancet South Africa website but they refused. It took a lot of pushing backwards and forwards to be allowed to pass through. Many emigrants have to endure even more frustrating experiences at the country's border posts.
Life of a Zimbabwean emigrant has never been worse than it is now and the authorities appear not to have the means nor the will to help. As such the emigrant is left all alone.