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Climate Change Drives Immigration in Mat South

Mat South villagers flee climate change induced droughts and poverty in search of greener pastures in neighbouring countries. Image by UNHCR

Climate change induced droughts and poverty are threatening livelihoods in Matabeleland South, forcing many to risk life and limb crossing the Limpopo River in search of a better life in neighbouring South Africa.

BY CALVIN MANIKA | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | FEB 20, 2023

MATABELELAND SOUTH (The Citizen Bulletin) — Mthandazo Ncube (36), a villager in the Bhangeni area under Chief Mpini in Matabeleland South says the 2011-2012 droughts were enough to force him to make a life-changing decision.

“At that point, I made the decision to go to South Africa in search of greener pastures,” Ncube says.

For years, migration dynamics showed that youths from Matabeleland South preferred a life in Botswana and South Africa.

With droughts becoming more frequent, pushing many into deep poverty and starvation in Matabeleland South, several elderly and young individuals are also seeing a brighter future in the two countries.

Farai Moyo, a climate scientist, explains why drought has become endemic in the province:
“In the Matabeleland South region, August has the most sunshine with 10 hours each day. The sun shines the least in December. However, over the past ten years, that direction has been altered,” explains Moyo.
Moyo adds: “The month of December used to have the highest rain days with 10, but today it occasionally rains in January and then disappears after two months, placing farmers at risk.”

Climate change has resulted in the decrease of yields from farming activities around the province.

Livelihoods have also been disrupted as their income generating projects such as brick moulding have been affected because of lack of water.

Government and donor agencies have tried to make some climate change interventions to alleviate poverty in the province, but Nkosilathi Dhlamini, a local, says these programmes are not benefiting everyone.

“While these programs are admirable, they often only need a small number of people, and most people still have a difficult time getting by,” Dhlamini says.

“Hunger cases are widespread; if not for our brothers and sisters who bring funds and groceries from the diaspora, this would have been a tragic tale.”

Climate change has resulted in the decrease of yields from farming activities around the province. Image by CFR

Sadly, some migrants lack adequate documentation, such as passports, and are unable to obtain resident permits, making their lives in foreign countries more difficult.

After the 2011/2012 drought which led Mthandazo to migrate to South Africa, things were not rosy in the neighbouring countries as that country tried to curb the influx of foreigners.

In 4 months in 2012, a total 25,300 Zimbabweans were deported from South Africa and Botswana.

Findings from the police show that, on average, about 100 people are deported from Botswana while between 200 and 300 are deported from South Africa every day.

Approximately 180,000 Zimbabweans are currently permitted to live and work in the Republic of South Africa under the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit.

However, Pretoria says it will not renew these permits this year.

For Zimbabweans in Matabeleland South who fled the ravages of climate change, returning home is not an option.

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Matthias Mleya, a village head at Silunguzi village in Matobo, says forced deportations will see many returnees indulge in crime due to lack of jobs, poverty and hunger resulting from climate change disruptions.

“Climate change has an impact on many economic aspects, including the reliability of fields and precipitation,” Mleya says.

“How will they handle such a large population in the event that ZEPs are revoked? It will turn the area into a hotbed of crime and prostitution. By now, our government and concerned ministry must be seen developing a strategy for their citizens.”

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