The plight of aged im­mi­grants

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - SOCIETY - Lang­ton Nyak­wenda re­cently in HWANGE

AT ITS peak, Ka­ma­tivi Tin Mine was once the big­gest un­der­ground tin mine in Africa, em­ploy­ing over 1 300 peo­ple, most of them im­mi­grants from An­gola, Malawi, Mozam­bique and Zam­bia. Un­for­tu­nately, Ka­ma­tivi Mine, sit­u­ated near Hwange Na­tional Park in the Dete area, closed shop in June 1994 af­ter 58 years of op­er­a­tion owing to fall­ing global prices of the min­eral.

Its clo­sure had a huge im­pact on the so­cio-eco­nomics of the Dete area as thou­sands lost jobs, just as much as it cre­ated an­other un­fore­seen predica­ment.

Hun­dreds of im­mi­grants from An­gola, Malawi, Mozam­bique and Zam­bia who trekked to the mine in the 1950s and 1960s were doomed as they were left with nowhere to go, nor a fam­ily to lean on.

Oc­to­ge­nar­ian Ze­nasi Zulu, an 86-year-old Zam­bian who came to Ka­ma­tivi in 1955 when he was still a young man with no proper doc­u­men­ta­tion, is a sad case study of im­mi­grants who were left home­less and hope­less af­ter the clo­sure of Ka­ma­tivi Mine.

“I have no fam­ily here, I have lost con­tact with my rel­a­tives back in Zam­bia. What I only know is I left a brother in Zam­bia,” Zulu, who came to Hwange 63 years ago, told The Sun­day Mail So­ci­ety at Dete Old Age Home last week­end.

“Although I would have wanted to go back to my fa­ther­land, lack of proper doc­u­men­ta­tion and re­sources forced me into des­per­a­tion.

“Be­sides, where would I go?” added a tor­mented Zulu, whose right leg was am­pu­tated at Mpilo Hos­pi­tal in Bu­l­awayo last year.

Sit­u­ated on the pe­riph­ery of Hwange Na­tional Park, the coun­try’s big­gest nat­u­ral re­serve, Dete Old Age Home was es­tab­lished back in 1983 to cater for un­for­tu­nate im­mi­grants like Zulu.

“We have taken care of hun­dreds of im­mi­grants at this home since 1983, some die and are buried at a lo­cal ceme­tery,” said Ms Ce­cilia Mwembe, sis­ter-in-charge at the home.

“They (im­mi­grants) came to work in mines. Af­ter the clo­sure of Ka­ma­tivi and scal­ing down of op­er­a­tions at Hwange Col­liery, they could not go back to their re­spec­tive coun­tries be­cause they do not have any con­nec­tion with their rel­a­tives.

“Most of them didn’t start fam­i­lies here in Zim­babwe,” re­vealed Sis­ter Mwembe.

Alec Ora, whose fa­ther is of Zam­bian ori­gin, has no idea of when ex­actly he was born.

What he knows is that he was born in Zim­babwe to a Tswana mother and a Zam­bian fa­ther who mi­grated to Zim­babwe in search of em­ploy­ment in the 1940s.

“I do not know when ex­actly I was born, both my par­ents died a long time ago. What I know is that I have a sis­ter but I don’t know her where­abouts,” says the light skinned Ora.

Res­i­dents at Dete Old Age Home sur­vive on hand-outs and last week­end, they had a rare treat when the Zim­babwe Parks and Wildlife Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity do­nated mat­tresses.

“We sur­vive solely on hand-outs here, and we are grate­ful to Zim­Parks for con­sis­tently com­ing to our res­cue,” Sis­ter Mwembe said.

Zim­Parks di­rec­tor-gen­eral, Mr Ful­ton Upenyu Mang­wanya, said his or­gan­i­sa­tion feels obliged to as­sist com­mu­ni­ties.

“One of the main tenets of con­serv­ing wildlife re­sources is to make sure so­ci­ety ben­e­fits from co-ex­is­tence with wildlife and wildlife re­sources in and around com­mu­ni­ties.

“Zim­babwe Parks and Wildlife Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity has taken it upon it­self to reach out to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties with a few ben­e­fits gen­er­ated from the con­ser­va­tion of the wildlife as a way of en­hanc­ing com­mu­nity aware­ness that wildlife is a her­itage for all and must be pro­tected from any form of suf­fer­ing,” said Mr Mang­wanya.

But for Al­fredo, a Mozam­bi­can who was born in Chi­den­gele in 1940 and came to Ka­ma­tivi in 1962, a re­u­nion with his fam­ily is all he prays for day and night.

Al­fredo mar­ried a Zim­bab­wean woman who died on the Christ­mas Eve of 1999. The cou­ple had no chil­dren and the Mozam­bi­can is now on his own.

“I would want to go back to Mozam­bique but I have no money. The last time I vis­ited my home­land was back in 1975 to at­tend my fa­ther’s fu­neral,” moaned Al­fredo.

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