Many people are leaving Zimbabwe for a better life elsewhere rather than go hungry and not have a job at home. But some people leave the country because of intimidation resulting from their political beliefs.
Gloria* is one such person. When she lived in Zimbabwe, she supported the opposition and attended rallies. By doing so, Gloria was exposing herself to violence and intimidation.
“In Zimbabwe I was involved in political activities – opposition activities. On many occasions I was threatened beaten or followed. Sometimes I slept in police custody because of attending the rally, so I had to leave for those reasons, it was no longer safe for me,” says Gloria.
Far from being a safe haven, her escape to South Africa, several years ago, presented other problems. It took three years to be given the legal documentation which would grant Gloria asylum and allow her to breathe easily in her new country.
“It was hard. I had to live in fear of being arrested and deported to Zimbabwe,” she says.
Even though Gloria hasn’t got a job and life is difficult in South Africa, she prefers to stay there for now rather than go to Zimbabwe. If she returned to Zimbabwe, she says she would lose her asylum status in South Africa and wouldn’t be able to return there.
Violence erupted against immigrants in a township near Johannesburg and spread across South Africa in May 2008. Gloria says that discrimination is one of the challenges she faces by living in South Africa.
“I‘ve suffered discrimination,” she says, “especially in public hospitals in South Africa. They call you names and say ‘oh, you left your country where there’s no free medication and you spread diseases’.”
Gloria is continuing her activism in South Africa and is using her experiences to help others. She recently attended a three-day peacebuilding workshop run by Caritas in Johannesburg. The workshop aimed to help communities to overcome their differences and live together more easily.
“I learnt more about being the change I wanted to see in the world at the workshop,” says Gloria. “Not expecting too much from others but taking the lead and doing positive things in the community. Starting with myself.”
*Name has been changed