ZIMBABWEANS forced out of the country by the current economic turmoil have pleaded with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to urgently address the economic and political mess back home so that they end their economic refuge in the neighbouring country.
By Rex Mphisa
Grammy Kasindi (on the phone) and Sandile Mafu stuck at the border post. In the background is a queue stretching for several kilometres from the immigration desk.
Most Zimbabweans living in South Africa interviewed at Beitbridge Border Post on their way back to the neighbouring country at the weekend said they wanted a reprieve from living second-class citizen lives they are subjected to in South Africa, hence the call for normalisation of the situation so that they come back and rejoin their families.
Some even dared Mnangagwa to visit the border post and witness the harassment they endure while crossing into South Africa.
This came amid calls for the speedy expansion of the Beitbridge Border Post, where staff in both Zimbabwe and South Africa were overwhelmed by thousands of South Africa-bound travellers in the last three days.
At one time yesterday, the vehicles queue stretched for seven kilometres from the border post, prompting officials to seek the assistance of members of the Zimbabwe National Army to help control the restive crowds.
Most were Zimbabweans returning to their economic refuge base in SA.
“Almost every one in 10 Zimbabweans you see in South Africa is well trained, but they do inferior jobs there because life is hard back home,” Grammy Kasindi from Mt Darwin said.
“We are home sick, we want to come back home and develop our country. We are bottled in South Africa. We have no social life there,” Kasindi, who is an optic fibre specialist, said.
“I wish our President could see this. He may have a change of view. Politicians must do their work and we will come and do ours and build our country,” he said, adding that at times, he is hired to do consultancy for Zimbabwean projects, expertise he could provide back home.
Sandile Mafu, a graduate teacher, said he was now a taxi driver in Johannesburg because he could no longer afford to fend for himself in Zimbabwe.
“I had to settle for that, but it’s inferior. I loved my job, but had no choice,” Mafu told Southern Eye as he waited his turn in the long queue of vehicles headed for the border.
“Many female graduates are domestic workers. What can they do? We have been humiliated by our government and forced into slavery,” Mafu said.
Like Kasindi, Mafu said he wished to return home, take part in national development.
An estimated 3,5 million Zimbabweans have sought refuge in that country fleeing economic hardships at home.
Although the ruling Zanu PF blames Zimbabwe’s economic woes on sanctions, particularly the United States’ Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act that bars international entities from trading with the country, locals point at misrule.
“Look at the currency issue, the fuel queues and mismanagement of diamonds and other resources. Zimbabwe could be a first world country considering its human and natural resources, but we lack political leadership,” Mafu, of Gwabalanda in Luveve, Bulawayo said.
Immigration regional manager Nqobile Ncube said they had enlisted the services of the army as pressure increased and queues grew.
“We have enlisted the army to help maintain order as we are now having social issues with the local community, who can no longer move freely around their town,” Ncube said.
The queue of vehicles cut in half Beitbridge town and it was difficult for locals to move from one side of the town to the other.
Beitbridge town clerk Loud Ramakgapola said there was need to speed up the expansion of the border post or alternatively build another border post to relieve pressure on Beitbridge.
“We have made these suggestions over a long time and they can only improve movement into the country,” he said.
He said it has always been a surprise why there is only one border between Zimbabwe and South Africa, which are the largest trading partners in the region.
Water vendors made brisk business as motorists waited for up to four hours to get to the immigration point on the Zimbabwean side.
Delays were longer on the South African side, where strict scrutiny was underway as thousands of undocumented Zimbabweans took advantage of the crowds to sneak into South Africa.
Southern Eye witnessed South African soldiers physically abusing some undocumented Zimbabweans who were immediately deported after their interception at Beitbridge.
Ramakgapola said his council will hasten the creation of ring roads to separate local from international traffic.