LIVING in South Africa, which has become a comfortable hideout for many locals fleeing Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown, has now become sour as Southern Africa’s biggest economy has caught a cold.
The South African rand took a nosedive against the United States dollar, which has made life an uphill struggle for most Zimbabweans as they now devise innovative ways of survival in a foreign land.
A 29-year-old Zimbabwean woman, who identified herself as Mercy, lives with several other women in a crowded flat in the heart of Johannesburg where all sorts of vices ranging from drug abuse to prostitution take place.
According to Mercy, many Zimbabwean women were also “hiring” out their babies to other people who then use them as “bait” to attract well-wishers while they pretended to be bona fide beggars.
“I hire a baby for R100 per day or less and I go along Empire Road or Byersnaude where I ask for help from motorists. Many drivers feel pity when they see the baby and give me money, not knowing I’m not the mother of the baby,” she said.
A close friend of Mercy identified only as Talent said at times they took turns to share one baby as they begged.
“Here in South Africa, life has become difficult and sometimes we share one baby as long as the mother gets her money,” she said.
I can’t go back to Zimbabwe right now for I know even prostitutes are suffering more than us there. It’s better here.”
Another woman said she “rented out” her one-year-old daughter to others in exchange for cash.
“I love my child, but in order for me to feed her I have to do that,” she said, insisting that she only gave out her baby to women she knew who would not harm her.
“I am not the only one doing this. We are so many and most guys you are seeing here sell smuggled cigarettes from Zimbabwe,” she said.
Mercy said some of the Zimbabwean desperados went to the extent of pretending to be visually or physically handicapped to attract well-wishers.
Like many Zimbabweans who found the going tough in South Africa, Mercy said she felt betrayed by her country and has been forced to resort to desperate means of survival as her choices were limited.
“I feel betrayed by my country for I feel in me no remorse at all for what I have become,” she said, adding that it was very unlikely that she would return to Zimbabwe any time soon.
“Zimbabwe failed to protect me when I was there, so I don’t think there is anything for me there,” she said. “I am waiting like anyone else for the day when Zimbabwe becomes a country to be proud of.”