While thousands of Zimbabweans are fleeing the country each week in desperate attempts to better their lives, many foreign citizens say they're staying. They say they’re confident they'll survive the economic decline and political upheavals. Several people say despite ongoing economic problems, Zimbabwe's infrastructure is still intact, making life here better than in their own homelands.
Voice of America Zimbabwe Service reporter Netsai Mlilo tells us that Nigerians and Congolese top the list of so-called "easy to spot foreigners" in Bulawayo. Locals joke that they're usually easy to spot, because of their accents and flashy clothing.
Josea Katende is a permanent Zimbabwean resident from Lubumbashi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A computer science student at a local college, Katende says he's been in Zimbabwe for nearly a decade. He explains he left the DRC with his family, when he was a teenager in the mid 1990s. Initially, his family lived in Zambia before coming to Zimbabwe. Katende says although Zimbabwe's economy is collapsing, life is still better here than in the DRC, "It's bad. The economy is bad right now in Zimbabwe but the difference maybe, is the infrastructure and that things haven't like collapsed in Zimbabwe like they are in the Congo. Like right now, the situation is bad but you can still post a letter and it gets to wherever it must go which in our countries there it doesn't exist anymore. So at least, there is some kind of order in Zimbabwe."
Katende says since coming to Zimbabwe, he has watched the number of Nigerians and Congolese nationals in Bulawayo expand. He argues that's because there are numerous opportunities in Zimbabwe to make money. Most foreigners sell popular items like clothes, cell phone handsets and accessories.
Katende adds with the money he makes, he can buy a lot more goods here than he'd be able to purchase in the DRC, "When we came to Zimbabwe, I think I only knew two Nigerians but now, you know, there is a lot of Nigerians because they find it easier here. It's hard to make money but its easier living yet in Nigeria like in DRC you can easily make a lot of money but the life is just not easy, the comforts that go with it. If you are living in a place with power cuts, potholes everywhere, you can't really live properly."
Several Nigerians -- who declined to be named or recorded – said their major misgiving about living here is locals often suspect them of being drug dealers. As a result, they say they keep to themselves, rather than interact with Zimbabweans.
Katende says although he's better off being in Bulawayo, he still misses home, "I think it's the food. We have nice food there and just being there, being with people who are likeminded culturally, and I just wish I had grown around my relatives, my uncles, I think that's important. But maybe, I gained in the fact that having lived in all these countries I get to appreciate people."
Katende says he and other Congolese families try to keep in touch and share traditional meals, in an attempt to keep their cultural links strong. He adds that Nigerian and DRC nationals meet regularly, for poetry and music sessions. But he also acknowledges that if things don't improve soon in Zimbabwe, he may be tempted to move again, as soon as he completes his studies.