Migrants in Zimbabwe survive on menial jobs

Farirayi Kahwemba

A significant number of migrants living in Zimbabwe are surviving on menial jobs and remittances, according to a report by a reputable international organisation that examines current and emerging cross-border movements in Southern Africa and other parts of the world.

For many years now, since Zimbabwe started experiencing economic hardships from around 2001, many locals have been flocking to South Africa, Botswana, the United States of America and even Europe in search of better opportunities.

Of late, however, Zimbabwe has also been receiving many migrants from many African countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi and Mozambique.

International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Zimbabwe has revealed that a high number of migrants in the country are living in Bulawayo and other parts of Matabeleland.

In its July 2023 report, IOM Zimbabwe noted: “Migrants residing in Bulawayo made up the highest number of migrants relying on remittances (37 percent) . . . Male migrants who stated that their source of income was through menial jobs resided in Bulawayo and Matabeleland South provinces.

“Most of the migrants who stated receiving income from income generating activities were operating flea markets, food stalls or vending stalls.”
The exact number of migrants living in Zimbabwe is not yet clear.

A snap survey by Review & Mail revealed that many Congolese nationals were operating salons in the Harare and Bulawayo central business district and surrounding areas.

Scores of Malawians and Mozambicans were also engaged in selling second hand clothes, airtime and other vendor businesses.

The IOM Zimbabwe report also revealed that South Africa is still – by far – the most popular destination in the region for scores of Zimbabwean migrants in search of better economic opportunities beyond the border of the country.

The report noted that 76 percent of Zimbabweans migrating out of the country opted for South Africa while others travelled to Mozambique (14 percent), Botswana (6 percent) and Zambia (4 percent).

The report also revealed that many Zimbabwean migrants travelling to South Africa were either seeking for employment opportunities or were engaged in other commercial and income-generating activities.

“Of the migrants who stated that they were travelling to conduct commercial activities, South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique remained the preferred destinations.

“Most migrants were travelling to purchase clothing and food, mostly in Mozambique and South Africa,” the report noted.

Cross-border buying and selling of food, toiletries and other basic commodities has become a source of livelihood for many unemployed Zimbabweans.

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