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Some Zimbabweans Choose to Stay Despite Hardships


Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis has forced many to leave the country to seek refuge or better opportunities elsewhere. But, as Tendai Maphosa reports, there are also those who could leave but choose to stay in Zimbabwe.

Unsubstantiated estimates put the number of Zimbabweans in neighboring South Africa at three million. More are scattered across the Southern African region.

Britain has also attracted thousands while Australia, New Zealand and the United States are other popular overseas destinations.

For the unskilled, the options are limited. Most of those in South Africa are there illegally. They end up working as laborers or doing other menial work for very little pay. They run the risk of being arrested and deported to Zimbabwe.

For the highly-skilled, especially in areas such as medicine and information technology, opportunities are available in many countries.

But some choose to stay in Zimbabwe and deal with the hardships. Dr. Douglas Gwatidzo falls into this category.

VOA asked him why he has not considered taking his practice someplace where life would be easier. He says he has actually considered leaving, but has decided his services are of more value here at home.

"Despite all these problems, the little contribution that I am making goes a long way towards alleviating somebody's suffering so whatever little that I am achieving for the few people, I think I am doing my bit," said Gwatidzo.

In addition to the serious challenges facing medical professionals in Zimbabwe, Dr. Gwatidzo is also the chairman of the Zimbabwean Association of doctors for Human Rights. This means he deals with and exposes cases of torture and physical abuse by government officials, not a very safe job considering the current situation in Zimbabwe.

Walter Wanyanya has also decided his future lies here. At 29 he is a computer technician who has worked for one of the world's biggest computer companies. He could easily get employment outside Zimbabwe, but he has also decided to stick it out here.

"I believe in Zimbabwe and what Zimbabwe has got to offer and there is so much that we can still do. I think our infrastructure is still very much intact as much as everything else around us is negative," said Wanyanya. "If I am going to leave, I am going to leave to get more education and come back and build Zimbabwe because at the end of the day this is home."

While Wanyanya and Dr. Gwatidzo are examples of those who have decided to stay, there are those who leave and return to Zimbabwe.

Kudzai and Trevor Davis fall into this category.

Trevor has lived in Zimbabwe since 1984 and considers himself a Zimbabwean. In 2005, the couple decided to go to Davis's native Wales to further their education and look around for opportunities. But once they were done with their studies and worked a bit, Trevor says, they felt an overwhelming desire to come home.

Kudzai says she found Wales and the Welsh people very nice, but it still was not home.

"It is that much harder. You have got so little space, the child care demands are so much more, my children were very small at that time and it just felt really quite overwhelming and at the same time it is not a cheap place to live," said Kudzai. "The United Kingdom is actually very expensive and whatever little money you make or whatever much money you make, there is lots of demand on you to spend it quickly."

Trevor added that despite things such as schooling for their children and health care being more certain in Britain they are prepared to give it their best shot here.

"One of the biggest worries now is education for our eldest daughter," he added. "I think it says something that there is immense competition for first grade places for school kids. It just shows you that there are a lot of people still here who never went away and a lot of people coming back now and trying to look to the future with their families. Wherever you go, I believe there's problems."

All those who VOA spoke to do not blame those who leave. They all expressed the hope that those who have left will bring much-needed skills and experience back home when political change enables them to return.