Zimbabwe government has offered to assist hundreds of people stranded in South Africa failing to make ends meet due to the COVID-19 lockdown with an offer to repatriate them back t the country.

Harare live has learned that over 550 approached Zimbabwe’s embassy in South Africa with the majority in need of food packages while over 100 requested to be brought home.

The embassy, however, is prioritizing those who wish to be repatriated. The lockdown in South Africa started on March 21 and was last week extended to April 30.

In a statement, Zimbabwe’s Deputy Ambassador to South Africa, Counsellor Martin Makururu said Zimbabweans wishing to be assisted to return home can register on an online platform.

He said the embassy was now liaising with the head office in Harare on the possibility of repatriating those willing to return back to Zimbabwe.

“It has come to the attention of the embassy and consulates that some members of our community are facing challenges which may make their continued stay in South Africa uncomfortable.

“The embassy wishes to advise members of the community that the Government of the Republic of South Africa allows for the voluntary, orderly repatriation of foreign nationals to their countries of origin during the lockdown period,” said Counsellor Makururu.

“The Embassy is liaising with Head Office in Harare on the possibility of such an eventuality. Zimbabwe borders remain open to allow for the return of citizens and permanent residents even during the lockdown period.”

Counsellor Makururu said the Zimbabwean Embassy in Pretoria and its consulates in Cape Town and Johannesburg are reaching out to the Zimbabwean community in South Africa.

“Citizens and permanent residents who choose to exercise the option of returning to Zimbabwe during the lockdown period are expected to go into compulsory quarantine for a period of 21 days.

“While consultations with head office in Harare are underway, the embassy will continue with efforts to come up with a comprehensive evaluation of the situation on the ground as it develops and your input in the exercise will be greatly valued.

“Meanwhile should you opt to return home kindly provide your details on www.surveymonkey.com,” he said.

Counsellor Makururu said those who wished to return home had to provide their full names and surnames, passport or national identity card numbers, age, gender, current physical address, local phone number, home address and phone number of next of kin in Zimbabwe as well as the home address in Zimbabwe.

An official at the embassy said so far, they have received at least 550 responses with a majority of those requesting for food aid while more than 100 want to be repatriated.

“We have received over 550 responses and the majority want support in the form of food packages while over 100 requested to be brought home. The embassy is focusing on those who wish to be repatriated,” said the official.

The official said those in need of food have since been referred to humanitarian organisations.

The official said they are currently in the process of ascertaining the exact numbers of those who have registered for repatriation.

The exact date of repatriation is yet to be announced as the embassy is currently seized with the process of profiling those who registered.

“We are at the very initial stages of this process and presently, we want to ascertain the numbers of those who may wish to be repatriated. Given the current circumstances of lockdown and the quarantine requirements of those entering Zimbabwe, we have to coordinate the movement with the relevant institutions in Zimbabwe to ensure that all necessary measures are observed to avoid the possible spread of the COVID-19,” said the official.

“Today (yesterday) was the first full day since the message was sent out. We will see how the numbers are tomorrow (today) and then propose timelines.”

There is a large number of Zimbabweans living in South Africa.

Some are formally employed across all the sectors of the economy that include banking, hospitality and education with the majority doing menial jobs and others are unemployed.

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