“We feel like animals. They treat us badly and gave us no time to collect our stuff. I had a four year work permit on the farm but still they deported me,” said Brighton Tagwira from Masvingo.
Like prisoners they disembark from the fortified truck one by one by under the watchful eye of the police and Zimbabwe immigration officers.
Tagwira was picked up by the police while selling his stuff in Polokwane where he works as a farm worker.
Tambudzai Mawunganidze 30, said, “We were kept in jail for too long and felt like criminals because they mixed us with South African criminals. They kept our cell phones, clothes and other valuable items. If you ask for the things they threaten you with a longer stay in jail.”
“The way they treat us is bad. We stayed in jail for two weeks before we were deported. Before that they had taken a lot of things including money from me. When I asked to get my things they said their cars do not carry other things except people.”
An IOM official said there were more blacks than whites among the deportees and a large number of them were men on a scale of 90 percent men 10 percent women.
“The reason goes back to tradition where men are supposed to be the bread winners. Men also do work that expose them more than women who normally work inside the house,” said Natalia Perez IOM Head of programmes.
Many of the deportees come from areas such as Chipinge, Bulawayo, Chiredzi, Masvingo, Harare and Mwenezi.
The IOM centre receives an average of 40 people per day and about 1200 a month. There were 3500 deportees between November and October.
The deportees go through a routine process when they arrive at IOM from South Africa.
“When they arrive we start by verifying if the deportees are Zimbabweans. This is done by the police and immigration. We also look for criminals who might have ran away among these people,” Memory Mwale the Head of the Beitbridge IOM centre.
Rachel Dube, one of the deportees who was picked up in Louis Tritchadt was still scantily dressed when she arrived in Beitbridge.
She was picked up by the police as she was preparing to take a bath.
She had many complaints against South Africa police.
“Men and women were mixed together in custody and some of the people we met inside were hardcore criminals,” said Dube.
She was also angry that she had no time to pack her stuff which she had bought for Christmas.
But IOM officials said they make an effort to follow up on property and outstanding salaries of the deportees and in many instances they have succeeded.
“We have managed to get salaries for deported people from their employers,” said the IOM official.
The deportees are given an opportunity to either get help back to their homes in Zimbabwe or are let free to do what they want with their lives.
Most of the like Dube often retrace the footsteps back to South Africa through the Limpopo River.
“You are giving me transport to go home but what will I do when I get there? I would rather go back to South Africa,” said Pride Chinhenga another of the deportees.
Chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Home Affairs, Paul Madzore summed up the problem of the deportees in one line.
“The is a need to talk to the South African government to treat Zimbabweans more humane but the main problem that our people faces is unemployment,” he said.