Zimbabweans in SA fear for their loved ones back home

21 January 2019 - 13:57 By Naledi Shange
Police stand guard in Harare, Zimbabwe on January 18 2019.
Police stand guard in Harare, Zimbabwe on January 18 2019.
Image: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Zimbabweans living in South Africa say the tense situation unfolding in the neighbouring country is frustrating as they struggle to stay in touch with their loved ones back home.

Ruva, who asked that only her first name be used, said it was difficult to contact family members and the uncertainty of not always knowing what was happening made it tough.

"The internet access is limited and the phone calls are being dropped. You can't even send money to relatives because it's impossible for them to travel to the [different agencies] where they can get the money," she said.

Ruva has been in South Africa for 10 years with her husband and child.

One of the closest relatives she has back at home is her aunt who she had been planning to bring to South Africa prior to the unrest.

"She is in a critical condition and needs to come to South Africa for treatment," she said.

Another Zimbabwean national who spoke to TimesLIVE was Thembi.

She and her fellow countrymen failed to understand why Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa had left the country amid the recent heightened tensions.

Mnangagwa had gone abroad shortly after announcing a 150% fuel price hike, which sparked mass protests.

The cost of petrol increased from $1.43 (about R20) to $3.31 (about R45) per litre and diesel from $1.38 to $3.11 per litre, making Zimbabwe's fuel the most expensive in the world.

"He should have been here to fix the situation. How does he carry on as though it is business as usual," asked Thembi.

Ruva shared the same views, saying "people say it's not the first time that when there is a crisis, he is out of the country".

South Africa's department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) issued a statement on Sunday indicating that things were slowly returning to normal in Zimbabwe.

“The minister (Lindiwe Sisulu) has noted that protests in Zimbabwe have calmed down and life in the streets of Zimbabwe is returning to normal,” said Dirco spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya.

Thembi told TimesLIVE she could not confirm that things had calmed down as she had been unable to reach her family by phone over the past 24 hours. 

Ruva said people were still afraid to move around. Soldiers and police officers were still on the streets.

"We have also heard reports of gunshots in Harare and Bulawayo still," she added.

Jostar, in Cape Town, said he was glad that his family was in one of the more rural parts of Zimbabwe and had not been exposed to the turmoil in the cities.

People wait for the inauguration ceremony to swear in Zimbabwe's former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa as president in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 24, 2017.
People wait for the inauguration ceremony to swear in Zimbabwe's former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa as president in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 24, 2017.
Image: REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

"They do not have any access to the internet ... but the sad thing is that I cannot reach them, even via phone," he said.

"But if anything happens right now, I have no way of getting home," he said.

Jostar said that with internet access being limited, some Zimbabweans were using an App, similar to WhatsApp to keep in touch with people outside the country.

While Mnangagwa headed back to Zimbabwe, Jostar said he had little hope that the president could fix the crisis in the country. "All Zimbabweans want is peace, not war," he said. 

Ruva said while she had been hopeful that things would change after Robert Mugabe stepped down from the presidential seat in 2017, she did not have immediate plans to return home. 

"I had planned to spend only four years here but things just got worse at home. When I went back (years ago) Harare wasn't what I had remembered it to be. It looked like a deserted town," she said. 

"That was the last time I went back there."


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