The Zimbabwean economy has been struggling to firmly stand on its feet, a situation that has further been deepened the Covid-19 pandemic and the country’s politics.
Despite the World Bank and the government painting a colourful picture of the economy on a recovery path, the general populace is yet to share the same sentiments leading to the population drain that has seen locals migrating to next-door countries including South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana among other regional states.
According to the Afrobarometer, by 2017 almost half of every Zimbabwean had thought of emigrating to other countries, the job search is the most pulling factor.
However, all is not green in the greener pastures as emanating problems in the neighbouring countries reflects the situation home in Zimbabwe.
Recently, the Zimbabwe Republic Police reported that it had arrested over 89 000 people for cross border-related crimes chiefly among them smuggling of goods and border jumping.
South Africa and Zimbabwe tightened security along the Beitbridge border post as scores of people are moving between the two countries without proper documentation for travelling and staying in South Africa.
A move that has led to a vicious cycle of corruption and re-arrests as people are bent on entering South Africa in search of better livelihoods.
South African officials have also alleged that Zimbabwean officials at the border were aiding illegal cross-border activities as was also echoed by an oversight process carried out by South African Home Affairs Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi.
Official figures show that more than 3 million migrants are living in South Africa and almost a million of these are accounted for by Zimbabweans.
The country is coming up with legislation to limit the number of foreigners who can work in South Africa and has also cited the increase of illegal activities by immigrants.
The delays in having a truthful diplomatic dialogue have led to South Africa effectively ending the moratorium that allowed Zimbabweans to live and work in the country through the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit.
With the Lusaka door kept open to Zimbabweans, small traders have infiltrated Zambia as the neighbouring country is attractive for business.
Recently, Zimbabwe has been making the headlines in Lusaka after the Mayor, Chilango Chitangala declared that the Council in collaboration with the immigration department will be descending on foreign traders in the central business district, most of which she said are Zimbabweans.
“We have a big problem of street vending in the central business district and are trying to organise them. However, we are receiving resistance, which we find unfortunate. From our 2018 to 2019 counting, we found that we not only have Zambian street vendors, but a good number of our friends from neighbouring countries too are coming here and trading on the streets.”
“That includes Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda and Congolese. It’s not only Zimbabwe. We are trying to organise our vendors by trying to move them back to their market stalls, and also provide new trading spaces,” Chitangala is quoted saying.
Zimbabweans have been on an emigration rampage in Africa and abroad. On average, the Botswana government deports around 15 000 Zimbabwean illegal immigrants as the government is also spending a fortune trying to deal with the influx.
Economists have blamed the dire need by locals to cross borders on the failure by authorities to create a stable, conducive socio-eco-political environment that is lucrative for the citizens.
Just as much as any other crisis in the SADC region affects the whole SADC, the Zimbabwean crisis will continue to haunt neighbouring countries if there is no sustainable solution in place.