By Gladys Hlatywayo
The MDC Alliance notes with great concern the precarious situation concerning Zimbabwean citizens in foreign countries during this time when the Covid-19 pandemic is causing havoc around the world.
Being away from home is hard enough; it is far worse during conditions of unprecedented crisis.
We would like to pay tribute to fellow citizens who have lost their lives to the pandemic. Each day, we receive distressing news of yet more deaths.
This is a terrible time for families, losing their loved ones and breadwinners to the pandemic. The majority, as we understand it, are frontline healthcare staff. As in war, they are dying in the line of duty.
They are being described quite rightly as heroes in the family of humankind. We honour them.
Their untimely departure is a great loss to our nation for they are not just breadwinners for their families.
They are community champions too who never forgot where they came from.
The remittances they send from the Diaspora have been a great lifeline for our economy.
In the spirit of ubuntu, every time one of us dies, we are left poorer as a community.
We are also aware that hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens find themselves stuck and stranded in neighbouring countries.
With countries enforcing lockdowns around the world, many of our fellow citizens find themselves without jobs, incomes and access to food.
Being foreigners, some of them undocumented, they are excluded from the support being given to citizens in those countries.
These are terrible conditions at any given time, made far worse during a pandemic. We empathise with them and call upon fellow citizens who are better-placed to extend a hand of assistance where possible.
We also call upon our sister countries to exercise compassion and empathy and to treat foreigners in distress the same way they would treat their own citizens.
It is a time of crisis and again, in the time-honoured spirit of ubuntu, it is right to treat others humanely, their circumstances notwithstanding.
Even in war, humankind has established rules and norms to protect those who find themselves in positions of vulnerability.
That said, we must face our harsh reality as a nation.
Our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora are not there and facing these challenges out of free choice.
If they had an easy choice, they would never have left home in the first place.
It is common knowledge that they were forced by our home-grown crisis to leave the country and eke out a living in foreign lands.
If they are not political refugees, they are certainly economic refugees.
There was a time when an average Zimbabwean did not need to have a passport. This was because the country was generally able to provide for its citizens.
Now it is an essential possession and getting one is a struggle. This is because of the broken state of our economy and the accompanying political crisis.
They have made conditions unbearable, forcing many to flee away leaving their families behind not out of choice, but out of necessity.
Their loss and their predicament may be on account of the COVID19 pandemic, but the real cause is the political and economic crises authored by the ZANU PF regime.
They are victims of a catalogue of greed, corruption and incompetence which has reduced our country to a farcical state.
As we mourn and bury our fellow citizens, and as we seek to help those who are stuck and stranded in foreign lands, let us not forget that they never needed to be out there but for the gross mismanagement, callousness and misrule of the ZANU PF regime.
As Zimbabweans, we indeed face a double pandemic – one caused by COVID19 and another authored by ZANU PF.
Both pose an existential threat to our nation. We have to remain steadfast and escalate the struggle.
As long as the current clueless regime is in charge of national affairs, we will remain in a political and economic morass.
May God bless and protect you all in these challenging times.
Please do not forget to wash your hands; to practice social distancing and to stay at home. Be thy brother’s and sister’s keeper.
Politics can only be transacted where there is human life and as a party, we are putting a premium on the sanctity of human life in the wake of this pandemic.
Gladys Hlatywayo, MDC Alliance Secretary for International Relations