Beitbridge border post gets a lot of criticism right now. Firstly, people slam the inefficiency on the South African side. And, secondly, the massive queues once again raise the ire of South Africans who want Zimbabweans gone. But not all of those Zimbabweans traveling home are thieves or stealers of jobs. Here’s one truly sad tale of a Zimbabwean woman.
Beitbridge border post breaks young Zimbabwean woman
This true story about the Beitbridge border over Christmas 2020 revealed not all Zimbabweans in South Africa are here as thieves. Or job stealers, or illegals. I know a young Zimbabwean-born woman as we meet often when I walk along the nearby river. She lives at the back of a scrap dealer’s business. No water makes it hard for her to keep her toddler clean, and the laundry done by hand becomes a challenge. She met and married a South African truck driver when she lived in Bulawayo as a teenager.
Moving to South Africa with her husband, he, unfortunately, passed away in a vehicle accident. So, one of his relatives lets her stay at the back of his scrap yard. Lots of South Africans live in similar conditions. Without her Zimbabwean family to help her, she scratches a living growing some spinach and maize and cooks up maize meal for passing trucks. Sometimes, she gets temporary work as a domestic. Still, this story doesn’t set her apart from many South Africans living in poverty. But her recent experience at the Beitbridge border post just about broke her.
The sad tale of a young mom
In February last year, before COVID-19, the news arrived that her mom passed away. So she caught a minibus and went home with her few rands she had to spare and her 10-month-old baby. After laying her mom to rest and observing their traditions, she returned to South Africa. With no work available in Zimbabwe, her dad lost his home, and her little brother wanders around homeless in Bulawayo. So, she saved a little bit of cash to send home.
But, it’s hard for her. Every time people protest and threaten Zimbabweans in South Africa, she stays home and keeps her head down. And that’s where this story differs from the average sad tale of South Africans living in poverty. You see, she’s terrified of mobs. And, she’s terrified if she talks someone will know she’s a “foreigner,” even though she’s legally here after she married. And, her child is a citizen of South Africa.
Sometimes, she can’t go to work and earn money for her dad, her brother, and herself. Nevertheless, she managed to scrape the taxi fare together, and a few rands as a gift. She got her COVID-19 test, took her toddler, and set off to pay her respects to her dad in Zimbabwe this Christmas.
COVID-19 test expired, money finished, she gave up
I saw this young woman before she left. Off she went, with her youngster bundled on her back, and a small bag of clothes. That was days ago. But when they arrived at the Beitbridge border they waited so long to cross, her COVID-19 test expired. So, she was forced to abandon the trip. She didn’t have the money to pay for one on the Zimbabwean side, even if she finally got there. Out of money by then, she returned back to Gauteng.
I saw the young woman down at the river. Surprised, I asked her how her trip home went. And, she just broke down and wept. She told me that when she was in Musina trying to buy food, people were abusive to her. Heartbroken, broke, and full of despair, she cried her eyes out. My husband bought her some chicken, and a few other treats for Christmas. And we gave her some cash so her Christmas won’t be totally ruined. And yes, there’ll be some extra part-time work for her in the New Year. But as for seeing her dad and brother at Christmas, it’s not going to happen now.
Hateful messages about Zimbabweans living in South Africa
Many hateful messages appear on Twitter about Zimbabweans in South Africa. But it’s Christmas. It’s the season of peace, love, and humanity. Not all Zimbabweans are thieves, illegals, and job stealers. Just for a few days at least, perhaps we can find it in our hearts to say “there but for the grace of God go I.” After all, The Citizen reported that one woman actually passed away at the border post.
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