With the Christmas and New Year holidays looming, the hive of activity that has traditionally been associated with the festive season in Matabeleland is this year likely to be impacted by Covid-19, which could see a decline in the number of Zimbabweans working outside the country trooping back home.
Borders across the SADC region which had been closed for the greater part of the year as part of measures by governments to curb the spread of Covid-19, only opened recently with a cocktail of requirements for travellers to comply with before being allowed passage.
Part of the requirements for travellers include possession of a Covid-19-free certificate and not exhibiting any symptoms of the pandemic.
The tight screening at the ports of entry and exit is likely to deter some Zimbabwean expatriates from coming to celebrate the holidays with their loved ones.
“It’s still a wish to come home this December because my family is in Plumtree and it’s almost a year now since I last saw them,” said Mthulisi Ncube, who is based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“The Covid-19 regulations are just too much and very costly. The South African and Zimbabwean governments should provide these Covid testing systems at the points of entry and make sure they provide the basic prevention materials like masks, sanitisers and promote social distancing for free.”
He said the pandemic called for strong cooperation between the two nations.
“Personally, I haven’t been working hence I will use a fake certificate which is affordable to cross and thereby posing a threat to others due the failure of both governments,” Ncube said.
He said it would be a painful experience should he fail to travel back home for the holidays.
“It won’t be a family time; I will be in a makeshift house alone and will just drink and jive all my sorrows,” he added.
Botswana-based Sitshengisiwe Ncube who hails in Mangwe said this year will be her first time to celebrate Christmas outside Zimbabwe because of the coronavirus.
“The situation is bad this side; I really wanted to come home this Christmas but Covid-19 regulations keep being tightened making it even harder to travel,” she told CITE.
“This year’s Christmas is bound to be so boring and for me it will be my first time ever to celebrate Christmas here in Gaborone.”
Simbarashe Chibatwa in Windhoek, Namibia, said he was not coming home this time around because of a number of travel regulations to comply with, despite Covid-19 being done for free in that country.
He said he would instead travel to a coastal town of Namibia, with a few friends from home as they try to bring the Zimbabwean spirit outside the borders.
“Luckily for Zimbabweans in Namibia, you can do a free Covid test at a government run clinic (ironically called Robert Mugabe Clinic),” he told CITE.
“But I have to admit there are a lot of processes one has to undergo that would deter a would-be traveller. We have millions and millions of Zimbabweans working across SADC, most of whom will definitely be travelling by road.”
He added: The Zim government must look out for its people, ensure efficiency at the border side, when it comes to tests and Covid certificates and so forth and have the government institutions do them at a subsidised rate, minimize as well too many unnecessary stops, and remember Covid thrives in mass gatherings.”
Theoppy Ncube, another Zimbabwean based in Windhoek also said she would not be coming home for the holidays.
“I will not be coming home this year; there are too many regulations to comply with and my fear is testing positive and struggling to return to work,” she said.
She challenged the government to ensure corruption is minimised at the borders as people come back home for the holidays.
“I am not coming home, essentially, this is because we still have high numbers of infections being recorded in the region,” said Henri-count Evans, who is in Mbabane Eswatini.
“I have a feeling that even though the regulations have been eased, it is still unsafe to travel. Immigration authorities should enforce the requirements for Covid-19 certificates. At the borders, it is important for officials to avoid long queues as is the norm. People should be assisted in an expedited manner to reduce interactions.”
Evans said he will celebrate Christmas by attending a church service after which he will avoid other social gatherings in order to be kept safe from the pandemic.
However, spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, Bongani Mazwi Mkwananzi, said many Zimbabweans have in that country indicated their intention of returning or visiting home during the December holidays.
“One notes that many who would have even been doing monthly or weekly trips home have not managed to do this for almost the entire year,” said Mkwananzi.
“We anticipate seeing a lot of people visiting home. We find a lot of people asking for the requirements to cross the border which affirms our anticipation. However, we also note that the covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns it brought may inhibit financially those that want to return home. The expensive test certificates will also pose a challenge to many.”