'We would rather die in Namibia'

23 January 2019 | International

A group of Zimbabwean nationals living in Namibia, who were initially excited about the toppling of long-time president Robert Mugabe in 2017, say they have given up all hope and are “ready to die” in a foreign country.

Zimbabwe has been beset by social and political unrest over the past couple of weeks after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a sharp rise in fuel prices.

Zimbabweans immediately took to the streets to protest, and a dozen people have so far been killed in a subsequent government crackdown.

One of the Zimbabwean nationals living in Namibia, who refused to identify himself, said he was disappointed by the lack of intervention by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU).

“Look at SADC and the African Union; they are doing nothing. We can just die like that. You are coming here every time and writing about our lives, but nothing is changing. We have given up, we are ready to die,” he said.

Ironically, exactly a year ago in January 2018, this same 36-year-old marketing professional, who is making a living as a bus driver in Namibia, was a “happy man” when Mnangagwa took over as president.

At that time he shared with Namibian Sun how he would have loved for his late father to witness the regime change.

“I would have loved for my dad to have been here now… he died with a broken heart because all his children are scattered across the continent in pursuit of greener pastures, which we didn't even find,” he said.

However, today he has lost all hope of ever returning to the country of his birth.

One of his friends, who identified himself only as John, said it is very painful to think about his country.

“All I want to say is 'President Mnangagwa and Constantino Chiwenga (vice-president), do not abuse people. Do not play with people's minds and lives. Organise yourselves'.”





Another Zimbabwean national, Damuza Chindori, who is a vendor of broomsticks and pesticides in Namibia, returned from his home country about three weeks ago. He said the situation is “very pathetic”.

According to Chindori the Zimbabwean economy is in freefall.

“I think it is because the people that we have in power do not understand how the economy operates. They are military men. They have no idea what it means to grow the economy or restore confidence in the economy,” he said.

Chindori said the Zimbabwean leadership believes that the saving grace of the country is foreign investment.

“Foreigners can only invest in a country when they see citizens are confident and prospering in that economy. So we have a mismatch where the local businesspeople are finding it hard to operate in Zimbabwe. So how do you expect a foreign investor to invest in a country where even its owners are failing to operate?” he asked.

According to Chindori the situation on the ground is unbearable, with the price of bread varying between US$2 and US$3 at various locations.

This translates to roughly N$28 to N$42 per loaf.

“The American dollar is now in critically short supply so people are using bond notes. Money is critically in short supply, businesspeople cannot operate well because they need foreign currency and it is nowhere to be found,” he said.

He added when a person imports a car they are expected to pay import levies in foreign currency.

“Where do you get it from? Meanwhile the people that are trading in foreign currencies are arrested on a daily basis in the streets, so it is a very sad situation for everyone.”

Chindori added that schools in the country have applied to raise their fees because of the escalating fuel prices.

According to him the situation has become so bad that most Zimbabwean nationals are scrambling to leave the country.

“What is happening in our country? When I was in Zimbabwe every young person was asking me what the opportunities in Namibia are. They asked, 'Can I just come and do anything?' Those that have gotten their degrees just want to get their passports and leave,” he said.

Mnangagwa this week cut short an overseas trip to attend to the chaos in Zimbabwe.

According to international media he has called for national dialogue and promised an investigation into the widespread violence by his security forces over the past few days.

The government had also ordered an internet shutdown.



JEMIMA BEUKES

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