By Everson Mushava
ABOUT 350 Zimbabwean students in Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus have made a distress call for evacuation, accusing President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government of neglecting them at a time neighbouring South Africa has announced plans to repatriate its 199 nationals stuck in the Asian country.
Zimbabwean students who spoke to NewsDay Weekender yesterday on condition of anonymity said they had grown increasingly desperate due to the lack of support from government since the outbreak of the deadly virus a month ago.
“Zimbabweans are desperate. The coronavirus situation is bad. Everything is closed and some people have run out of food. Government is not helping. Some countries are helping their students who are here,” a student who declined to be named said.
“Zambia, Botswana, Ghana and Namibia gave their nationals some money, and we have not received a cent from government. For us, we now survive from the benevolence of some Zimbabweans living in China to complement the help we get from the Chinese government.
“We managed to get the ambassador (Martin Chedondo)’s contacts a few days ago and we spoke to him, but he did not promise anything, while other countries are giving financial assistance to their distraught citizens.”
A message from Zimbabweans living in China under a group, Zim Can, showed Zimbabweans were mobilising funds for the students.
“We have formed a group in Wuhan to help some of our students holed up there. Prices are skyrocketing and some schools are not helping with food, meaning our brothers and sisters are struggling to have basic food on the table. Zim Can members have raised US$4 100 towards their upkeep,” part of the message read.
The students, however, expressed gratitude to the Chinese government for the help they were receiving, but observed that “the main problem is with universities that were not providing food and those staying off campus”.
In a text to Chedondo leaked to NewsDay Weekender, the students claimed some of them were sleeping on empty stomachs, calling on government to intervene.
“Honestly speaking, things are not well for us, we are trying our best to stay positive, but truth be told, we are suffering from mental distress and depression …
“We have tried to look for financial assistance from our government, but it seems like it is not bearing fruit. Some students are having to sleep on empty stomachs because it is not every university that is providing food for students,” part of the message to Chedondo read.
“… the funds can be channelled to the Zimbabwean embassy in China and they will be distributed equally to all the students affected by this lock down.”
However, in a video recording, Chedondo commended Zimbabweans and the student community for displaying the “typical DNA of resilience” and determination in the face of challenges.
“Our students have, throughout the entire period, remained calm and offered to join the fight alongside the Chinese counterparts,” he said without disclosing if there were plans to evacuate the stranded Zimbabweans.
Information ministry permanent secretary Nick Mangwana had not responded to questions sent on his WhatsApp number by the time of going to print last night. NewsDay