SA lockdown leaves Zim immigrants in a lurch

Hundreds of Zimbabweans living in South Africa are on the verge of starvation after their incomes were heavily affected by the lockdown in that country.

South Africa last week extended its lockdown by two more weeks as the country battles to control the spread of COVID-19.

However, the lockdown has left most Zimbabwean immigrants in South Africa in a lurch as they are unable to make money due to the closure of most businesses.

Most immigrants in South Africa earn income through domestic work and the services sector like restaurants and fuel stations.

In a statement, Zimbabwe Community in South Africa said most of the Zimbabwean nationals in that country are in a dire situation.

“The Zimbabwean Community in South Africa hereby extends a begging hand on behalf of many such families who cannot manage to earn an income during this very necessary lock down period. We appeal that help be extended to our community in form of food parcels or vouchers to aid those that now are in distress and have no recourse or alternative,” said the spokesperson Bongani Mkhwananzi. 

“Situation being normal our community would not find itself in such begging mode, yet this unprecedented situation calls on empathy to our community’s plight. The generality of the Zimbabwean migrant group earns income from domestic work, the services industry  like restaurants and garages, construction industry as well as vending among other low paying and hand to mouth form of work”. 

 Mkhwanazi said the number of people in need of food assistance keeps growing as some employers have adopted the ‘no work no pay’ policy. 

In South Africa, R40 billion has been set aside by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to soften the blow of the lockdown on workers and to avoid retrenchments. 

Mkhwananzi said most of the Zimbabwean immigrants might not benefit due to documentation issues.

“The Zimbabwean Community in South Africa recently sent out a request for those genuinely seeking food aid to fill and submit their names and the list keeps growing. When enquiring about such recourse as UIF we found that a large section of the respondents is unlikely to benefit from UIF. It’s a reality that some migrants are undocumented and some employers have not registered even those who are documented for the worker insurance fund,” he said.

“In many cases and in particular for some domestic workers, their own employers are also facing potential hunger, most of these workers are now subject to the no work, no pay policy.”

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