Zimbabwe relatives fleece Diasporans

Last night as I was driving home, I came across a group of women who were chatting by the roadside.

As I pulled into my residential street, I was greeted by a neighbour who immediately walked towards my car.

She then told me about a man in the neighbourhood who had been crushed to death by a train coach that morning and that the message about his death had just arrived.

He allegedly had crossed the railway line at a grassy, bushy point somewhere towards Good Hope area, as he walked from Tynwald North with earphones plugged into his ears.

His death plunged this quiet and peaceful residential area into mourning.

I then decided to make a U-turn and go to the dead man’s house to express my condolences.

Although I didn’t know him, it is not culturally correct not to grieve with the family of the deceased that live in one’s community of residence.

I sat quietly in the lounge as more people walked in to express their shock at the death of this man who was still in his productive years.

As the clock ticked away, a discussion started about people in the Diaspora who have been fleeced off by relatives back home after they squandered monies intended for housing construction and other developmental projects. 

This debate was prompted by a woman who asked another woman from that neighbourhood about her neighbour who went to England about 10 years ago.

“Oh, Mai Bee says she will never come back to Zimbabwe because of what her brother did to her.

“Can you imagine that all the money she sent to build her house was diverted to personal use by her brother? He instead bought himself some property in Ruwa where he built a lovely house.”

The woman said when Mai Bee visited Zimbabwe about three years ago, she was shocked to find that nothing had been done on the Tynwald property and when she asked her brother why that was so, she got a cold and unkind response from him.

“She was told that he also wanted a place of his own and that he had started building his house first. He advised her to send more money so he could start working on her property.”

That is the cruellest thing one can do to a close relative. But there are apparently many Zimbabweans who have gone through similar experiences, resulting in irreparable health damage to victims.

In 2005 I travelled to England and I was told of a number of Zimbabweans who had suffered mental breakdown following the discovery that their hard-earned British pounds had been abused leaving nothing to go towards their intended projects.

We are all aware that the reason why most people flocked to the Diaspora was to earn a living and save money to develop homes that they would live in upon their return.

“I basically came to England to work as hard as possible doing odd jobs so that I could raise money to buy a house. But I now fear engaging any relative to do that for me because of the stories about insincere people who took advantage of their relatives.

“We work like slaves here, without any social life to talk about. It’s work, work and more work and little rest.

“Our people think it’s all rosy this side and yet they could actually be better off in Zimbabwe.”

What this man said is actually true. Zimbabweans who were in the UK illegally were the worst affected as relatives knew they would never set foot in Zimbabwe for as long as their status had not been regularised.

But this was not for long as many of these people eventually managed to get their stay regularised and soon there was traffic of people from the UK to Zimbabwe.

“My sister travelled to Harare to get a glimpse at the house she was building in Mount Pleasant Heights but was shocked to find that the pictures of the house that had been sent to her were actually of a neighbour’s house.

“The problem was that our brother had capitalised on the dispute that we had with our sister which followed a communication breakdown between all of us except with him. We knew that he had used all the money to develop his Marondera farm but how could we have revealed this information to her?

“I did not even have her telephone number or e-mail address,” said a woman who preferred to be known as Mai Leah.

The relationship between people in the Diaspora and Zimbabwe has been strained so much that neither party truste the other any more.

The people back home think the Diasporans are being selfish by not meeting their needs and the Diasporans argue that the demands from here are just too much.

I remember two year s ago when I attended the funeral of an elderly lady who had passed on in Chitungwiza.

Relatives did not assist in any way whatsoever as they awaited the woman’s only daughter who was in England.

“When I came, I was given a list of items that my relatives had bought when I was still on my way. They wanted a refund. These are people that I had been sending money for their relatives’ funerals, some who are not even related to me — but here they were demanding money for food and other things.

“To say I was horrified is an understatement. After my mother’s burial, I put the Chitungwiza house on sale and used the money to pay deposit for a house in Mainway Meadows. My mother used to stay with some adult sons of my uncle who earned good salaries and drove very good cars. He offered no assistance at the funeral.”

This woman has not been back home since and rumours say she married an American who plans to settle in South Africa.

My brother Mbiri on his last visit from the UK about two years ago told me of a very funny story.

He said a very close associate in England visited his parents in Zimbabwe a few years ago and discovered that the £12 000 he had sent for construction of his house had been squandered by his parents.

“This guy could not believe what his parents had done. He was so angry that he locked the doors at their house and beat them up. Yes, he beat them up and went back, never to return.”

The man changed his telephone numbers and decided to instead buy a house in England. The £12 000 he had sent to Zimbabwe was a loan he had obtained from a bank, hence his reaction of thoroughly beating his parents.

One may argue that his actions were very uncultured and unAfrican but surely parents should not take advantage of their children and abuse them like that?

In fact, there is a general tension between people living in the Diaspora with the people back home because of the over-reliance on people in Diaspora.

“We are struggling too and the economic depression in the UK is yet to be overcome. We are barely making ends meet. But those people think London is paved with gold but the reality is living overseas is hard and I am sticking it out here just for the education of my children and nothing else,” said a nurse at Luton Hospital.

This nurse told me of yet another nurse who is now on medication after discovering that the houses she had asked her brother to build never materialised.

The nurse suffered severe stress and almost lost her mind in the process. The only thing her brother managed to build was the house at their village in Mutoko, which obviously did not cost much.

But the house she wanted built in Borrowdale was never constructed and to this day, there has not been any communication between the two.

Melissa Mpofu, a journalist, says her grandmother suffered the same fate. She sent money almost every month for construction of a house in an upmarket area but the house that was built for her in Selborne Park, Bulawayo, is sub-standard.

“When she told her children that she was returning, the project was fast-tracked and the result was disaster. The plumbing was a shoddy job as water leaked when one was bathing and the car she had asked them to buy was a ramshackle vehicle.

“How could they do that to an elderly woman who spent nearly 10 years in the UK doing menial jobs and saving for her retirement? That was the cruellest thing to do to an ageing parent who has been supporting her children financially through and through.”

Such is the reality of the matter, which unfortunately has created more tension than happiness for those living abroad.

I think we should all realise that life overseas is but survival of the fittest.

Feedback: rmapimhidze@newsday.co.zw. This article was first published in the NewsDay