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Zimbabweans in diaspora make Zimbabwe a cemetery

18 Oct 2017 at 10:10hrs | Views
When people left Zimbabwe for the UK their minds were clouded by the idea of getting rich. Most had believed that they would work for six months and buy a Kombi, then go back home. Nobody had plans to stay forever. The situation was made worse by those who travelled earlier, they gave a very wrong picture of the UK. They made people believe that money grow on trees once you are in the UK.

This idea has destroyed any money making initiative for those in Zimbabwe. Most of them do not think beyond England. If one is broke his money is a text message (SMS) away. Some people are now well known at Western Union and as they troupe to collect funds from the UK. Families adopted extravagant lives financed by the dear Bottom cleaners (care worker) in the UK.

So, on arriving in the UK the mind is preoccupied with making money and dreams of prosperity. Death is never in any one's mind so plans of where one should be buried in the event of death are a fallacy.

The last burial place for the diasporan is decided by total strangers and friends we have met in the UK.

THE PRESSURE FROM home makes it difficult to bury people in the foreign land. As a result, the first generation migrants are almost always repatriated to Zimbabwe for burial.

In the beginning, there was a spirit of unity where every Zimbabwean contributes towards repatriation. The fact that relatives at home cannot do anything, the task is left to those who are abroad regardless of relations to oversee the repatriation.

Coupled with the Zimbabwean culture burying a person on Zimbabwean soil becomes mandatory.

In the recent years, the death rate of the Zimbabweans in the UK has increased. We now have seven deaths a week which translates to thirty-one a week. This is highly alarming and the increase removes the comradeship and makes it difficult to finance or contribute to the repatriation of the deceased back to Zimbabwe.

Our cultural beliefs makes it very hard to opt for a burial in the UK. Now we have more deaths in the UK than we have birthday parties.

People say their father's dream was for them to be buried at their birthplace and they would have wanted their relatives to pay their last respects. These words alone plant a serious commitment to bury the deceased home regardless of the financial situation.

"London was always his home but Zimbabwe was always in his heart," so in the event of death the repatriation is not a negotiating issue.

This desire to be buried in the place you were born is strong for many first-generation African migrants in the UK.

The demand is so huge among the British Zimbabwean community that, according to embassy officials, at least 95% of first-generation migrants are buried back in Zimbabwe.

Repatriation is now a brisk business taking into account the death rate amongst Zimbabweans in the UK. A system is now in place to cover repatriation costs. And the death of someone is money for someone else.

"There is no assistance in any way except the communal collection. Our embassy is seriously not helpful. It does not provide free repatriation and a free plane ticket for a relative to assist the transportation of the body back to Zimbabwe. There is no logistic help and one wonders why it is open in he first place. But for many Zimbabwean communities in the UK, there is often no official financial support and many families struggle to meet the costs.

The repatriation ordeal is very stressful. Despite the deceased having lived in London for at least 30 years, the family back home puts people under pressure to fly the body back home. With all the pressure they put, they do not contribute a single penny.

All that they know is to call and say Bring my son's body back home'. There is no way one is going to argue with the head of the family. You just can't."

So you have to find ways to raise the funds. Death makes diasporas a begging lot where messages carrying account numbers fly around literally begging for help.

In cases like this, many in the diaspora have to keep their loved one's body in a morgue for several months, until they collect enough money for repatriation.

"This waiting is very stressful for those who have cultures where burial needs to take place quickly, and during the waiting period, hundreds of people will be congregating at the house.

Many people get isolated when they lose someone and they are in despair over how to get the money." This experience is fatal.

But the emotional stress, financial costs and family pressures are so high when it comes to repatriation, that some in the diaspora wonder whether it is really worth it. Our culture is that one is buried with his forefathers. This culture pitted against money makes the whole issue so stressful and not doable.

It is hard to fight against a family's wish, people always give in due to emotional stress. "Our families back home need to understand that our lives are in the UK now. Our children are in the UK and they are the ones who must decide where I am to be buried.

While tradition and culture fight, the pockets of the diaspora bleeds to emptiness. Death is certain and now very certain diaspora should take a stand and decide where to lay their loved ones. A convenient place with no hustle and stress.

Source - Dr Masimba Mavaza
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