“The last decent meal I had was a month ago … I don’t know how I will pay my [R250] rent this month,” says Munyaradzi, who asked for his surname to be withheld.
Munyaradzi is one of a group of Zimbabwean nationals living in South Africa who want to be repatriated. They say making ends meet became even harder since the lockdown began, leaving most of them who were informal traders without an income.
“It’s better to go back home and start my life afresh. The lockdown came at a time when I did not have any savings. My sister has stopped assisting me because her money has also finished,” says Munyaradzi who lives alone in Wells Estate. Before the lockdown, he relied on odd jobs as a painter.
“I need assistance from the Zimbabwe Embassy to be repatriated back home,” he says.
Nancy Mukaro from Motherwell lives in a two-room home with her two children. They too have asked to be sent back to Zimbabwe because Mukaro has not been able to work in weeks.
Mukaro came to South Africa four years ago to live with her husband who works at a citrus processing factory in Kirkwood. The couple have since separated, leaving Mukaro to raise the children alone.
“I have never worked for one employer for long periods of time whom I could have turned to for assistance. I want to go back home because I can’t afford paying school fees when things are this tough. I also have to pay rent at the end of the month,” she says.
Mukaro says the decision to return to Zimbabwe was not easy. “There are no jobs in Zimbabwe and the economic and political situation is bad. I am between a rock and a hard place,” she says.
In a statement earlier this month, the Zimbabwe Embassy in Pretoria outlined some of the conditions for those applying for voluntary repatriation: “The Embassy wishes to advise members of the community that the government of South Africa allows for the voluntary, orderly repatriation of foreign nationals to their countries of origin during the lockdown period.”
Zimbabwean Consul General Melody Chaurura told GroundUp that they were compiling a list of people willing to be repatriated. She refused to say how many people had already applied.
“We also urge our members to practice the spirit of ubuntu by spreading this offer to other members who may want to go home on voluntary repatriation. We encourage members with access to the internet and Facebook to help others,” said Chaurura.
Those returning to Zimbabwe were warned to prepare for compulsory quarantine for three weeks.