Zimbabwean expat fears for family

A Zimbabwean man now living in Dunedin is keeping a close eye on the downward spiral of violence...
A Zimbabwean man now living in Dunedin is keeping a close eye on the downward spiral of violence in his home country. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
A Zimbabwaen living in Dunedin fears for the future of his home country - and the safety of his family - as a violent crackdown continues in the African nation.

The man, whom the Otago Daily Times has agreed not to name, yesterday urged New Zealanders to pay attention to the deteriorating political situation in Zimbabwe, and called on the New Zealand Government to condemn the violence.

"This has to be aired out so the world knows this is what's happening in Zimbabwe right now," he said.

"Every human soul is very important."

International media reports this week have described a "massive" crackdown by police and the military, sparked by public disorder linked to food and fuel shortages in the impoverished country.

People arrested during protests wait to appear in the Magistrates Court in Harare. Photo: Reuters
People arrested during protests wait to appear in the Magistrates Court in Harare. Photo: Reuters
Access to the internet and social media was shut off on Wednesday, armed soldiers were patrolling major cities and "unidentified men" had been beating people at random, amid a wave of abductions in Harare, the Guardian reported.

At least eight people were reported to have been killed, and 200 arbitrarily detained, Amnesty International said, as it called on the Zimbabwean security forces to "exercise restraint".

The disorder followed a national strike over a steep rise in fuel prices, which had been ordered by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mr Mnangagwa took power when Robert Mugabe was forced to resign after a military takeover in November 2017.

The Dunedin-based Zimbabwean - who is a permanent resident in New Zealand - said he had come to New Zealand as a 20-year-old student in 2001, as the Zimbabwean economy began to deteriorate, seeking a better life.

He had lived in New Zealand since then.

Zimbabweans demonstrate outside the Zimbabwe embassy in Pretoria. Photo: Reuters
Zimbabweans demonstrate outside the Zimbabwe embassy in Pretoria. Photo: Reuters
He had made regular trips home, and moved to Dunedin last year.

However, his trips home had stopped in recent years, as the situation in Zimbabwe deteriorated, and more recently he had also been forced to stop sending money home for his siblings and mother.

"We can't send money right now, to look after them, because it's being intercepted [by the Government]. Which means there's no food for them right now. They are scared to talk to us right now because sometimes our phone conversations are being intercepted."

He and his Zimbabwean wife now had three children aged under 5, all born in New Zealand, but the man said he would like to return home one day.

"I still consider Zimbabwe home. That's where I was born and bred. But still, at the moment, there's nothing much we can do to survive there."

He did not want to be named for fear his siblings would be targeted by authorities in Zimbabwe.

But he urged the New Zealand Government to "do something" about the "horrible" violence.

Protesters stand behind a burning barricade on a road leading to Harare. Photo: Reuters
Protesters stand behind a burning barricade on a road leading to Harare. Photo: Reuters
"They need to say something."

The ODT contacted the offices of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Foreign Minister Winston Peters for comment yesterday.

Ms Ardern's office did not respond, while a spokesman for Mr Peters said he was "not available" and referred questions to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Mfat).

An Mfat spokeswoman said New Zealand was "concerned" by the violence.

There were no reports of New Zealanders being caught up in the unrest, but the New Zealand High Commission in Pretoria was "monitoring the situation closely".

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