By Sij Ncube
Mgodimasili, Tsholotsho, December 24, 2013 – Some came by buses, kombis while others drove into southern parts of Zimbabwe in all types of vehicles.
Some drove in state-of-the-art latest models while others trudged along in dilapidated vehicles probably for show-off to their kith and kin.
From Beitbridge, Gwanda, Bulawayo, Plumtree, Kezi, Tsholotsho, vehicles laden with groceries, fridges and even second-hand beds are conspicuous on trolleys and trailers on major roads and streets as Zimbabweans toiling hard in neighbouring South-Africa make their way home for the festive season.
Injiva, as they are affectionately known, appear to have shrugged off the weakening of the rand to make the annual pilgrimage home.
While the country’s economy has improved for a majority of locals who are now able to live within means, it has drastically reversed the status quo of many Diasporas who have been taking advantage of hyper-inflation in the country.
Although they have lost their glory back home injiva come in droves to celebrate the festive season with their families. Beitbridge border post has been a hive of activity for the past few weeks with officials battling to clear lines.
“South Africa is not all rosy but there is nothing like home sweet home,” said Anele Ncube, a bar-attendant at a trendy Sandon café, found cleaning his dilapidated jalopy on Tuesday in Mgodimasili, about 60 kilometres from Tsholotsho centre in Matabeleland North.
“I saved from January to able to come home and see my parents but eish things are expensive in Tsholotsho, the US dollar is killing us,” said Ncube. “The problem with this country is politics.”
Audrey Mazhale, from Plumtree lamented corruption among Zimbabwe’s police, saying she had to pay bribes totalling R2000 from Beitbridge to her final destination Mdlambuzi in Plumtree. “The police are demanding cash if you are driving foreign number plates but there nothing we can do. We just want to get home,” she said.
To most families in southern Zimbabwe a Christmas without injiva is not complete and does not warrant celebration as they are known for their spending spree and showy tendencies especially with trendy clothing and pre-owned GP vehicles that they use to entice vulnerable girls who fall prey to them expectant of lucrative benefits such as cash.
One of their common antics is playing loud music and driving at high speed which has in the past caused sour relations with traffic police who during the festive season launch a blitz on errant characters who distract peaceful motorists on busy roads.
In drinking outlets they are known for their penchant for imported beer such Heineken which they sip like no man’s business and get intoxicated to a comma. Such a care-free behaviour has been attributed to a ‘closed life’ which injiva are subjected to during their stay in foreign lands hence when they return home they seek to exercise their “freedom” while they infringe on other people’s rights.
Because of their mafia lifestyle which at times sees them engaging in fights with revellers in drinking outlets police details have in the past beefed up security ahead of the festive season specifically to deal with rowdy characters who bring disharmony in the community.
When the country’s economy completely went to its knees in 2008 injiva and other diasporans became heroes of the day.
For instance injiva would bring home R1000 and be able to spoil friends and family for days during the festive season but when the country adopted a multi-currency system in 2009 tables turned demoting injiva and their diasporan counterparts to ordinary members of the society.
While injiva were able to send goods home through transporters known as “omalayitsha” they now find it rather better and less expensive to send money to relatives in Zimbabwe so that they buy groceries home to evade exorbitant transporting fees charged by ‘omalayitsha’.
“It is better to send cash than groceries because grocery prices in South Africa and home (Zimbabwe) prices for goods such as groceries are almost similar,” said Mthandazo Ncube a Zimbabwean working in Nelspruit now known as Mbombela.
“After all, omalayitsha charge exorbitant prices to transport goods especially during the festive season so why should I lose money when I came buy groceries home?”
Lebani Dube, another injiva from Plumtree sang the same song.
“Why should I lose money sending groceries home if I can just send money to my wife so that she buys groceries at home (Zimbabwe)?”
During hyper-inflationary times, an ordinary injiva could exchange a R100 into millions of Zimbabwean dollar and be affluent for days.
Those who take alcoholic beverages would drink the night-over with friends and still remain with surplus but now things have dramatically changed as beer locally has become more expensive than in South Africa. For instance in Zimbabwe, a can of beer costs10 rands or a $1 while it is sold for as little as 40 cents in South Africa.