Lockdown hits Zimbabweans living in South Africa hard, thousands request to be repatriated back home

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An estimated 3 460 Zimbabweans living in South Africa are in need of food assistance, while 2 191 are requesting repatriation back home.

These figures were revealed by the Zimbabwean Embassy in South Africa in their latest update on how Zimbabweans in the country are faring in this Covid-19 pandemic.

In the update, the embassy says more numbers are expected.

“As of April 19, 2020, 839 people had registered for assisted repatriation back to Zimbabwe, while 2 249 people signalled their desire to receive food packs instead,” said the embassy.

“As of April 30, 2020, an additional 1 352 and 1 391 people had requested for repatriation and food parcels respectively. This brings the total number of people in need of assistance to 5 831.”

The embassy said it was seized with the plight of those who have reached out and are taking measures to provide recourse.

“The embassy and two consulates are currently engaging the South African Government to obtain the necessary clearances and authorisation to undertake the repatriation process in compliance with the lockdown regulations of the country,” it said.

Some restive Zimbabweans have been constantly pressuring authorities for a quick response, something the embassy said was difficult to guarantee in the face of protocols.

“Consultations are underway with regards to the logistical arrangements for the assisted repatriation, including funding, reception and quarantine facilities upon crossing into Zimbabwe,” said embassy.

“While it is normal for people to have expected quick finalisation of the process, this has not been possible due to broad-based consultations and careful considerations being taken at every stage of the planning process.”

Zimbabwe is already making plans to accommodate citizens whose return is imminent.

Those who return will be screened at Beitbridge Border Post before being transported to quarantine centres across the country.

Initially, Government had planned to keep them in Beitbridge at various proposed centres, but changes were made this week following stakeholder consultations.

NSSA Hotel, which is being used as a quarantine and isolation centre for Beitbridge can accommodate only 400 people, while the two boarding schools, Zezani and Tongwe, which had been proposed to take the other immigrants can accommodate 250 and 280 each.

Beitbridge district medical officer, Dr Lenos Samhere recently said: “The returnees coming from South Africa will now be screened and documented in Beitbridge before being escorted to their provinces as they come.”

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Deputy Minister Lovemore Matuke said Government was mobilising resources to cater for the returnees from South Africa.

“Treasury has allocated resources to look after those people who are coming from other countries,” he said.

“Since the number is increasing we definitely need to increase the amount of resources to look after a more returnees.

“We need food, toiletries and even money to pay for bills such as water and electricity at the facilities where the returnees will be housed.”

Deputy Minister Matuke said accommodation would not be a problem since colleges in Masvingo can be used to house returnees. He revealed that Government made arrangements with South African authorities to allow even those without the requisite papers to pass through.

Zimbabwe has over the past few weeks been receiving citizens from all over the world and placing them in quarantine centres across the country.

The first group that came from Botswana and were quarantined in Plumtree has already been released to their families after observation as well as testing.

Some have been coming back from countries like Britain and the United States, countries that have been hard hit by Covid-19.

Some of those coming from these countries are part of the numbers testing positive to Covid-19.

— Herald


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