AN estimated 4 000 Zimbabweans in South Africa have registered with the embassy for food aid as many have become desperate due to that country’s prolonged lockdown.
The lockdown has resulted in loss of incomes, particularly to those who are on temporary employment.
The Zimbabweans registered for food assistance through a web-link opened by the Zimbabwean Embassy in South Africa, with some of them expressing their willingness to return home.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Busi Moyo yesterday told The Herald that the Department of Social Welfare was working with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to assist the distressed citizens.
“We are currently engaged in negotiation regarding our nationals in South Africa who wish to return home. Our diplomatic mission there has opened a web-link for all distressed nationals who wish to return home to register.
“As at May 1, 2020, we were expecting to repatriate around 3 000 from South Africa,” said Dr Moyo.
In addition to those arriving from South Africa, over 700 citizens have arrived in the country from Botswana.
The first batch of 20 Zimbabwean nationals from Namibia arrived through the Victoria Falls border last week.
The returnees from Namibia are currently quarantined at Mosi-oa-Tunya High School in the resort town.
“Repatriation from our neighbouring countries continues and efforts are underway to improve the communication and coordination channels with authorities in Botswana to ensure that at least we organise the return of our citizens.”
Dr Moyo said some distress calls have come from as far as China where about 300 nationals have registered for repatriation.
Other nationals needing assistance, Dr Moyo said, are in the United Arab Emirates and in India where some Zimbabweans had gone for medical treatment and business.
India’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown, which started at midnight on March 25, was scheduled to end on May 3 but was extended by another two weeks.
“We also have a lot of Zimbabweans who are working on ships and are stranded. We received distress calls from our nationals who are currently at sea working for various international cruise liners and are seeking to return home. One such ship from the US is currently heading to Cape Town and we have about 30 or so Zimbabweans aboard,” said Dr Moyo.
He said a second ship was on its way to Cape Town, but he was still determining the total number of Zimbabweans aboard.
The United Kingdom also has a large number of Zimbabwean citizens seeking to return home, but the challenge has been the lack of airlines due to travel bans worldwide.
Given the challenge of airlines, governments have had to act on reciprocal basis by allowing repatriation of foreign citizens in the country.