Who wants to go back home?

Migration experiences - Zims in the UK

Continuing our series on the comparative analysis of the migration experiences of black and white Zimbab

weans in the UK.


LONDON Immigration status excludes undocumented black Zimbabweans from integration into the society. They work in low-paid service-sector jobs where monthly wages barely meet accommodation rentals, let alone mortgage payments, and the security of their jobs is precarious. Yet, it would improper to see undocumented migrants as victims of immigration policies. On the contrary, they have established a set of survival strategies to circumvent strict immigration laws.

Despite this difference, there are certain similarities between black and white Zimbabweans; both are agonized by the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe.

They see Zimbabwe as their home, a place they would eventually return to. The majority of respondents in this survey expressed an urgent desire to return and reconstitute their broken lives (69%), but in reality return remains uncertain as there seems to be no end to the political and economic crisis.

Those with work permits or permanent residence status are obviously living a more comfortable life than those without. Those with fewer worries about their immigration status are likely to invest in the UK rather than back home. The consequences of being undocumented migrants in the UK are harsh, and those people tend to invest back home. Although many white and black Zimbabweans have permanent residence status, they have an ambiguous belonging. They are obsessed with living in the past, the glorious days of Zimbabwe.

Political and economic developments back home are watched closely as this will influence the decision to return. When asked whether or not he would want to return home or settle permanently in the UK, Richard replied: “I want to return to Zimbabwe, my family is predominantly in Africa and I find the UK a tiresome place. The cost of living is too high and the weather is terrible. However, my partner’s family is here now and she has much better prospects here than at home (for now). It will depend very much on who takes over and how well prepared they are for rebuilding and what they mean to do to those who have served the regime.”

Both white and black Zimbabweans consistently define their diaspora both as temporary and permanent. Despite the strong desire to return to Zimbabwe, one has to acknowledge some will inevitably stay permanently. As Rudo explains: “At the moment the UK is my home and I will make it as such because I only live once. I do not want to plan a life for when, if ever, I go back to Zimbabwe to settle because it may never happen.”

Similarly, Mduduzi, a male Zimbabwean in his 40s, has been working as a professional in the UK. He lives with his family and said: “I intend to settle here permanently I would only go to Zimbabwe to visit only. Britain is a peaceful country. Only those who love wars would go to Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe cannot pay me what I am paid here in the UK, for example, teachers are paid Z3 million in Zimbabwe which is equivalent to £21, a month but in UK I am paid £260 a day as a supply teacher so why waste my time? Anywhere, Africa has one direction that is to disaster. No country in Africa will ever change, be it Zambia, Kenya or Malawi.”

Post published in: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *