South Africa
South Africa

For many Zimbabweans seeking better employment prospects abroad, South Africa seems to be the gateway to a better life.

But a 27-year-old man from Harare preffered to be quoted under the pseudonym of Brian Siwela said while South Africa seems to be the Promised Land, undocumented migrants like himself live “in a state of permanent insecurity.”


“We face a vulnerable and uncertain situation.” he told Xinhua. “Without proper documents, we have no right to work and we have limited access to social services such as health care and housing.”

Siwela, a university graduate who moved to South Africa two years ago after failing to secure a job in Zimbabwe, said although the country turned not to be the Promised Land, moving back home is not an option.

“There is little economic opportunities to support skilled people in Zimbabwe,” he said as he prepared board a bus to Johannesburg in central Harare.

“I would really love to stay with my family here but I have to be away so that I can send money or groceries back home. I am stuck between a rock and a hard place,” he added.

Another traveler, Aaron Mwambayo said although life as an undocumented migrant in South Africa is tough, he weighed up the risks and the rewards and chose to stay.

“In the long run I don’t plan to stay in South Africa. My ambition is to run my own entertainment business here in Harare, but at the moment I need to feed my family,” he said.

Mwambayo said life has been hard since he lost his job at a textiles company five years ago.

“The dinner table kept shrinking and shrinking until I couldn’t look my son in the eye,” he added.

Siwela and Mwambayo are not alone. Remittances by migrants has been key in the survival of many families in the Southern African country.

Remittances have also become a lifeline for Zimbabwe’s struggling economy, reaching 619 million U.S. dollars in 2018, with South Africa contributing 34 percent of that amount.

Mwambayo bemoaned hyperinflation for eroding the little income he was generating as a computer and cell phone repair, which prompted him to seek greener pastures elsewhere.

Salaries for most Zimbabweans cannot keep up with hyper-inflation, bringing back memories of the economic meltdown of 2009 when inflation reached a record of 500 billion percent.

Zimbabwe’s official annual inflation rate was the second in the world, at 300 percent, when the national statistics office suspended the release of data in August last year.

With the most industrialized economy on the African continent, South Africa has increasingly become attractive for Zimbabwean migrants. Estimates of the number of Zimbabweans in South Africa range from 1 to 3 million.

However, official data from Statistics South Africa and the United Nations Population Division puts the number of Zimbabweans living in South Africa under a million.

There are South African concerns that the growing number of migrants seeking greener pastures in the country is straining the provision of social services.

Xenophobic attacks against foreigners in South Africa last year led hundreds of Zimbabwean migrants to return home.

The attacks were fueled by the belief that the influx of migrants from the region is to blame for the country’s economic woes and crime increases.

Last week, riots erupted in Diepsloot, a township north of Johannesburg, after a Zimbabwean man allegedly killed a policeman.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean government is in the process of repatriating Zimbabweans who volunteered to return home after spending 11 years at Dukwi Refugee Camp in neighboring Botswana.

The first group of 132 refugees was repatriated last December under an initiative involving the governments of Zimbabwe and Botswana and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Botswana is one of the countries that have grappled with migrants from its neighboring country since the decline of Zimbabwe’s economy at the turn of the millennium. Enditem


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