November 17 2017 – AS THE political quagmire in Zimbabwe drags on, without regular, credible updates from the Harare government on the mediation processes underway, thousands – if not millions – of Zimbabweans living in neighbouring South Africa are itching for information, clutching at every update, although most of the information soon turns out to be “fake news”.
“When I heard the news of the military taking over, I was in cloud nine because it is the moment that will change our lives for the better. A moment that will allow us to vote for a new president other than Mugabe. A moment that will stabilize our economy,” said Fredrick Mbiri, who has called Pretoria home since 2006.
“I can’t wait for transitional government of all parties on board with one mission – to build a new Zimbabwe for all.”
Mbiri, now working as a salesman at a busy mall in Pretoria east, said surviving in South Africa as an immigrant is no childs play.
“Things have never been easy for me as I am struggling to meet my needs and that the needs of my family. As a foreigner, you face a lot of challenges that at times you have nowhere to report them, fearing to be victimised by police and locals,” he said.
Apart from his day job, Mbiri also runs his House of Hope-Ithemba non-profit organisation, which helps fellow Zimbabweans with challenges, including labour disputes, repatriation and documentation.
Like other Zimbabweans in South Africa, Mbiri is not holding his breath regarding the Southern Africa Development Community intervening in Zimbabwe.
“Personally, I don’t need them to intervene because they have failed in other SADC countries, so what good can they bring to Zimbabwe? If they have to intervene they should think of the masses, not only President Mugabe,” he said.
On his meagre salary as a salesman, Mbiri has to feed a family of 13, and he said sometimes he goes for months without sending anything back home because of economic hardships here as well.
Samuel Mungadze, a Zimbabwean journalist based in Johannesburg, said in the past few days Zimbabweans based in South Africa have become the biggest consumers of news.
“Zimbabweans are anxious for correct details on latest developments back home. The anxiety has been exacerbated by lack of credible sources of news. We have senior journalists tweeting things that turn to be untrue a few hours later,” said Mungadze.
“This problem is also as result of undeveloped media space in Zimbabwe, there is a lot of fear to report on issues fairly and honestly due to unprogressive media laws.”
In Harare, the situation is said to be “business as usual”, despite the presence of armed soldiers on highways and in city centres.
The limbo amongst Zimbabweans at home and abroad shot through the roof on Friday when a seemingly defiant Mugabe arrived to officiate at a graduation ceremony at the Zimbabwe Open University in Harare – where he is Chancellor.
This was the 93-year-old’s first appearance since the military took control of the small southern African landlocked nation which has been ruled by Mugabe for the past 37 years.
A reporter at the State-owned Zimpapers, Kuda Bwititi, said in Harare the rumour-mill has gone into overdrive.
“In Harare people are mostly relying on social media. WhatsApp messages on the issue, mostly false or unverified have become the order of the day. Those who follow newspapers remain loyal to either public media or private media, depending on which publications they traditionally follow,” said Bwititi.
“The national broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation has not been giving regular updates since General SB Moyo issued that statement [announcing the military intervention] but it remains the most credible source.” – ANA