Zimbabwe: Efforts to Welcome SA Returnees Applauded

A view of Harare in Zimbabwe.
27 February 2023

The efforts by government to ensure a safe return for all Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa when their permits expire in June, have been welcomed by ordinary people and political analysts as a great move.

Analysts say the kind gesture underlines President Mnangagwa's determination to have all citizens playing a role in nation building under the mantra, "Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo/ Ilizwe lakhiwa ngabanikazi balo".

When the returnees arrive, said the analysts, they should immediately identify areas they can venture into, be it agriculture, mining or services industry, so as to move along with the economic transformation that is underway being championed by the Second Republic.

The development comes after President Mnangagwa said the Government had put in place measures to ensure a smooth relocation of over 178 000 Zimbabweans, who have been living and working in South Africa under the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP).

The ZEP was introduced to regularise the stay of Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa and will not be renewed upon expiry.

Writing in his weekly column in The Sunday Mail yesterday, President Mnangagwa said: "We are preparing for their return, and to warmly welcome them once they step on home soil. We will do so fully confident that their return and re-integration into their families and communities, and with relatives and friends will be smooth.

"Government will assist them as they prepare to resume a productive life as full citizens back in the land of their birth."

President Mnangagwa added that a mapping team would leave for South Africa this week.

The team will comprise officials from different Government departments to ensure preparations are comprehensive and attend to every detail.

Medical experts and officials from several ministries, including those from Primary and Secondary Education, will be part of the team.

Said President Mnangagwa: "We have to ensure that pupils already in South African schools are not prejudiced during the translocation of families. They have to be re-inserted in classes with minimum disruption. We also need to ensure families which had acquired assets do not lose out as they relocate back home.

"Those assets will give them a head-start as they resume life back home. Our medical experts will ensure that the whole programme is alive to issues of public health, principally risks posed by Covid-19 infections as our people move back."

President Mnangagwa said in the last year or so, many Zimbabweans abroad were already retracing their steps back home to exploit opportunities which show daily, as the economy recovers and continues to grow.

Government, thus, sees the return of citizens in the Diaspora as a boon; it is not a bane.

"We thank all those countries which gave them shelter and more skills while we sorted out our affairs for recovery and growth," said President Mnangagwa.

"South Africa ranks foremost among those countries. With our economy now on an irreversible growth trajectory, the time has now come for our nation to claim back its own and to assume full responsibilities for its citizens who may wish or need to come back home. They now have opportunities to contribute here at home. This is how my Government views this latest development.

"Government does not underestimate weighty decisions and onerous work required to smoothly repatriate all our nationals, and to re-integrate them in the home economy and society.

"Alive to this challenge, I used the just-ended 36th Session of the African Union in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to touch base with my brother, President Cyril Ramaphosa of the sister Republic of South Africa, and with Professor Antonio Vitorino, the director-general of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). IOM is a United Nations agency. South Africa will assist the process."

President Mnangagwa said his meeting with Professor Vitorino ensured the United Nations gets involved, and that all its expectations during the migration exercise are fully met.

"In that meeting, I emphasised two critical areas, namely, the need for a comprehensive mapping exercise of all migrants coming back home; and the need for a combined strategy of our Government and IOM in facilitating the re-integration of our nationals both in host communities and in different sectors of the receiving economy," he said.

"The mapping exercise will identify all those who are set to come back home: by name, by family, by location, by current sources of livelihood, by assets accumulated over time and, more important, by occupation or skills brought into or acquired during their stay in South Africa.

"Such comprehensive mapping will allow us to prepare for the homecoming of our nationals, as well as identifying start-up and employment opportunities for them once they are in the country. IOM's vast experience in this area will assist us enormously. I am happy that IOM is already working closely with our officials in this exercise."

Government's proactive move to ensure a seamless relocation of the country's citizens was welcomed by ordinary people.

Mr Tongayi Mufandaedza thanked the President for the stance he has taken to welcome and assist the returnees, adding that the Government was creating opportunities for everyone through the economic turnaround.

"Businesses are opening, roads and infrastructure are being refurbished and revamped. It is now clear and has proven true the mantra that "Nyika Inovakwa Nevene Vayo".

"The sons and daughters of the soil are now coming back and the President is welcoming them and acknowledging that they have a role to play in building our country," Mr Mufandaedza said.

Ms Patricia Nyakuyakuya said Zimbabweans were also facing challenges like xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

"We are happy with the assistance that the Government is providing to our relatives," she said.

"I have relatives there like my nephew who said he was facing challenges there. I think as families, with the help of our Government, we can help them come back and get settled permanently."

Mr Admire Mandota said it was important that the Government was working to ensure the safe return of locals.

He commended the Government and urged people in the diaspora to come and adapt to the new environment.

"We hope that they will come back safe and I commend Government for the action they are taking. Home is always best," he said

Political analyst Mr Goodwine Mureriwa said: "Government did not stop Zimbabweans who went into the diaspora seeking greener pastures. Equally, Government has an obligation to welcome returning citizens home and assist them in resettling in their mother land. The old adage says "home is best". This is our country together.

"President Mnangagwa is saying no one and no place should be left behind in the context of the development agenda of the new dispensation, in keeping with vision 2030. What we want is peace, unity and development.

"We expect returnees to be law-abiding. They should also thrive to benefit from rationalisation and imminent down-sizing of farms. Our revolution has been and will always be about the land. It is the birth right of every Zimbabwean. It is the source of life. All sectors of our economy are based on the land. So in the late national hero Oliver Mtukudzi's words, the Government is saying "dzokai muyamwe". We all whole heartedly welcome our fellow citizens."

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