PRETORIA – It is a chilly Friday morning in Pretoria and a middle aged lady sits on the back of a van driving slowly into Mangolia Dell Park.
Her name, Kudzai Bondo had no choice but to bow down to the COVID-19 related effects that left many destitute and in need of repatriation assistance.
Her jersey tightly tied around her waist, face mask covering mouth and nose; she jumps off the van and offloads her luggage.
Despite her depressing circumstances, her bubbly character takes over once she sees fellow Zimbabweans and starts mingling. She leaves her goods unattended and walks towards a desk manned by a Zimbabwean Embassy official to verify her registration.
Next she heads to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) desk for Covid-19 screening.
This time she is taking all her time to ask the nurse questions regarding the journey.
Passport in hand and other documents from inquiry desks, Bondo walks back to her luggage.
Among the people gathered are ex-convicts who have recently been released from prison. Some have no luggage at all.
“All travelers should expect strict conditions and must adhere during the journey until you reach to quarantine centers in Zimbabwe,” IOM chief of mission, Lili Sanya warned.
“We wish you all a safe journey. Special thanks also goes to Bigtime Strategic Group CEO, Justice Maphosa for making this process a success,” added Zimbabwean Ambassador to South Africa, David Hamadziripi who also took time to explain how assisted repatriation works.
Bondo, like most of the travelers, was shocked by Mr Maphosa’s generosity.
“May God bless this man, when you look at the current situation, I am not able to assist a single person, but Maphosa’s love is shocking,” said Bondo.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 induced national lockdown in March, Bondo has not earned any money because she could not work.
Normally, she survives on selling crotchet materials in the Gauteng province.
“When I heard that there is assisted repatriation, I did not waste time to send my details and prayed that all would go well.” says Bondo.
The smooth journey for the returnees started on 15 May 2020.
Bondo, from Zvishavane, arrived for her 21-day quarantine at Masvingo Teachers College on 16 May 2020 and after hearing about quarantine ‘horrors’ she had her own fears.
However, she says her stay was not as deplorable as imagined.
“Quarantine was not as bad as imagined. I actually spent a lot of time praying. Family also supported a lot through sending inspiring messages that kept me strong,” she said.
Tests were done and Bondo’s biggest quarantine joy was testing negative.
Amid her joy, other surprises also came her way realising that the same Good Samaritan who sponsored repatriation, Maphosa, had sent some goodies and bus fare to assist her get home.
“Family reunion is one of the best feelings one can ever encounter. Now I am home and happy. Things are not normal but it’s not only us affected but the world at large.
“As we pray towards the end to this pandemic, let’s not forget to abide by the set COVID-19 prevention guidelines. My focus now is on adopting the new normal and see how I can make a living from my trade in the merging ‘new’,” said a visibly jovial Bondo.