Home South African Nearly 1 million Zimbabweans in search of better economic prospects in SA

Nearly 1 million Zimbabweans in search of better economic prospects in SA


Economic difficulties epitomised by elevated unemployment have driven nearly one million Zimbabweans out of the country, with most of them settled in South Africa, where they are seeking better economic prospects.

Zimbabwe is battling widespread economic difficulties that have seen inflation soar to 257 percent as of August. File photo

UNOFFICIAL estimates have previously put the number of Zimbabweans in South Africa at around 2 million.

However, StatsSA estimated the number of Zimbabweans in South Africa at about 574,000 in 2016.

Now, new census data from Zimstats reveals that there are 773,246 Zimbabweans settled in South Africa, accounting for the largest number of emigrants seeking better economic opportunities outside the troubled southern African country’s borders.

The total number of Zimbabweans settled outside the country amounted to 908,913, adds Zimstats.

“The (2022 census) data indicate that the most emigrants from Zimbabwe were based in the southern African region and, in particular, South Africa, with 773,246, and Botswana, with 47,928. For overseas countries, the UK had 23,166 emigrants,” Zimstats said in its Preliminary Report on Migration under the 2022 Housing and Population Census.

As many as 84 percent of the Zimbabweans who have left their country “emigrated for employment reasons”, while 9 percent and 5 percent “emigrated for family reasons and study/education”, respectively.

With unemployment estimated at more than 80 percent, Zimbabwe’s economy has continued to bleed employment prospects for its populace. The Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions told local press that “about 65 percent of the already depleted formal sector has been affected by retrenchments” in 2022.

Zimbabwe is battling widespread economic difficulties that have seen inflation soar to 257 percent as of August. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube has had to reduce the country’s economic growth projection for this year, from 5.5 percent to 4.6 percent, citing headwinds from high inflation, supply chain disruptions and currency uncertainties.

With companies struggling to sustain production and to keep employment, 90 percent of Zimbabwe’s male emigrants and 75 percent of female emigrants “departed the country in search of employment”.

Only about 9 percent of Zimbabwe’s total emigrants “departed for family” reasons, according to the census findings.

Legal researchers Leona Gona and Fungai Chimwamurombe estimate that up to 90 percent of corporate entities within Zimbabwe “have either failed to survive or have (been) under judicial management” for extended periods.

While there are more than 773,000 Zimbabweans settled in South Africa, as much as 58 percent of the expat population in Zimbabwe is from South Africa. Preliminary migration results from the Zimbabwean census shows that there are 236,246 foreigners settled in Zimbabwe, with South Africans accounting for 137,594 of these.

The South African government, battling rising unemployment in its own backyard, has extended permits for Zimbabweans working and settled without proper documentation to June next year, granting a six-month reprieve for most Zimbabweans in the country.

The two countries share close economic ties though, with South African companies – including units of Impala Platinum, Sibanye-Stillwater, Nedbank, Tongaat Hulett and Tiger Brands among others – among big corporates in Harare.

Zimbabwe also imports most of its finished products from South Africa, with retailers Pick n Pay and OK Zimbabwe procuring some of their consumable stock from across the Limpopo River.

Zimbabwe, alongside Mozambique, also accounted for the highest number of African tourists arriving in South Africa during the first half of this year.

“So far in 2022, Zimbabwe accounted for most arrivals to South Africa. The legal arrivals,” Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said.


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