Over the past decade most Zimbabweans have been crossing the border into South Africa in search of jobs.
Some were professionals but the majority have been poor Zimbabweans struggling to put a meal on the table. One of the major set-backs has been the grooming of young girls who came to South Africa and with no minders. Most of them have become mothers in a very short space of time.
They have been forced to send children back home to be looked after by their aging parents, adding onto the burden being carried by the country’s senior citizens who are already struggling with AIDS orphans.
Most women say their troubles start as soon as they arrive in South Africa as they are expected to find work and still play their role as mothers.
These women say balancing the two roles becomes complicated when they have children who need their care while having to work at the same time.
Quitting their jobs to raise the children is usually not an option since their extended families back home heavily depend on them.
Zimbabwean woman, Siziwe Dube, admits that burdening their aging parents is something that pains these mothers but it is the hardships of life that forces them to take tough decisions.
“It’s such a big challenge. It’s difficult because you don’t have anybody to leave the kids with while you are at work and at times you knock off late and you don’t have time for the children. It’s such a big challenge as you have to pay a lot of money for some people to look after your kids even after work,” says Dube.
She says sending their children to Zimbabwe benefits not only the child but the entire family as well.
“It will be easier because they will be having that family time. They will be having somebody to look after them while you are at work. They even get time to co-relate culturally with your parents. It’s good in the sense that they get good manners there, instead of here where things are mixed up. We don’t have time for them.”
Although there are many childcare centres in Johannesburg and other parts of South Africa, a mother of two Cynthia Ncube, says these are too expensive and usually not providing proper care for the little ones.
She says even in cases where the mothers can afford to keep the children at a daycare here in South Africa, the working conditions often makes this option a difficult one since they start work early in the morning and finish late at night.
Ncube says stories of daycare providers giving children sleeping tablets or drugs to keep them asleep, has forced most mothers to withdraw their children from these centres.
“The crèches here in South Africa are very expensive. The teachers there do not treat children well and their food is not cooked well. The children end up getting sick so you find that if the children are sick, the money I spend on doctors is very high, so it is better for the kids to go to their grandparents.”
However, another Zimbabwean woman Nondumiso Moyo warns that some mothers send their children to their grandparents and end up not supporting them, forcing senior citizens to find it hard to support them.
“Taking kids home does not mean that people should sit and relax and forget about their kids. There are some people who stay for years without sending anything home, who do not even think about the kids they left at home. They enjoy life and keep making more babies. They should stop making more babies and concentrate on educating their kids, giving them a good life and sustaining them.”
Moyo cautions that causing one’s parents to suffer in this way could be a potential source of bad luck.