Marked decline in South African returnees to Zimbabwe

David Hamadziripi

THE South African government’s relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions to Level 1 has seen a reduction in Zimbabwean nationals seeking to be repatriated home, Zimbabwe’s chief envoy to South Africa, Ambassador David Hamadziripi, has said.

At the peak of the lockdown in South Africa, consulates were inundated with Zimbabweans who wanted to come back home after having lost their jobs or were finding it hard to make ends meet.

Ambassador Hamadziripi told The Sunday Mail that the embassy was now predominantly receiving medical, study or work-related requests.

“The opening up of the economy has witnessed a reduction in the requests by our nationals to return home. The majority of requests that the embassy has been dealing with of late are for entry into South Africa for medical, study and work purposes,” he said.

As of September 11, repatriation statistics stood at 4 899 by bus, 352 by air and 1 407 by private vehicles.

About 2 311 Zimbabweans were deported by the South African government, while 2 538 were repatriations of Zimbabweans who had died in the neighbouring country.

South Africa’s move to Level 1 lockdown, Ambassador Hamadziripi added, had resulted in high demand for passport services.

“The repatriation process does not need the people to physically visit the consulate or embassy, unlike the passport application process which requires authentication of documents and physically taking fingerprints. I am glad to inform you that the consulates are coping with the pressure, with all booked clients being served as per their appointment.”

United Nations agencies and well-wishers were reportedly assisting with food, repatriation logistics and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Many countries are beginning to open up their economies while also remaining cautious of a possible second wave of the pandemic.