Working ourselves to death in the UK

Nurse helping senior man with walker

It is estimated that Zimbabweans in the Diaspora remitted US$2,1 billion in 2012 and about US$1,8 billion in 2013.
Speaking about the need to introduce a Diaspora bond in 2014, the Finance Minister, Hon Patrick Chinamasa, said: “The full statistics on Diaspora remittances and other contributions have been difficult to verify due, in some cases, to the informal channels of remittances used. Many households survived on these remittances during the period 2002 to 2009.”
However, he had no clue how people here in the Diaspora are slaving themselves, sometimes leading to lonely deaths, to raise the money to send to the extended family in Zimbabwe.
Recently, and here in the UK, we have heard of some incidents in which some Zimbabwean people, especially women, have collapsed and died. One of the incidents, circulating on social media and also reported in an online Zimbabwean newspaper Zim-Express, reported: “Zimbabwean woman has been found dead in London two months after relatives lost contact with her.The decomposing body of Sally Mpofu (29) was found by British cops in her house in Barking…”
According to the story, Sally had not been to Zimbabwe for nearly 19 years, and her mother, who lives in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, raised an alarm after she had not heard from her daughter for two months.
“However, Sally did not respond to her texts or calls soon afterwards, prompting her to alert the other relatives here in the UK. According to her relatives in the UK, Sally had moved into new accommodation and had not had time to pass her new address details to the rest of the family. Relatives in the UK tried to contact her via the phone and after getting no response quickly alerted the police. Police investigations led them to Sally’s new house in Barking on the 10th of December 2015 where they were faced with the decomposing body of the 29-year-old.”
This is a very sad story. And it is becoming a common occurrence, not only to Zimbabweans in the UK, but to other Africans in the Diaspora.
It happened a few years ago to someone whom I was working with at a nursing home. I will not mention her name in respect of her family’s privacy. She was from South Africa. This South African woman worked as a nurse at the nursing home where I was also working as a care assistant. She was loved by the company and management because she was always doing overtime, sometimes working more than six nights in a row.
If anyone called in sick, she would happily cover the shift.
That was despite the fact that she was living with her husband and two adult children, who were also working hence she did not need to give them any money.
But like most Africans, she was working to send money to relatives back home, South Africa in her case.
One day she went home after a night shift, the fifth night duty worked in a row. She was due for another night shift that night, to make them six nights in a row, because she was covering someone’s shift, who had called in sick the night before.
Our South African colleague went to bed to sleep that morning, but never woke up again.
She had been dead for hours before her husband found out. Because she hadn’t reported for work at 8pm, one of the staff on duty began to ring her mobile and house number. That was when the husband found out. She had died in her sleep.
After that incident, I told myself I was not going to work like a donkey to support people back home.
The relatives who ask for money, gadgets or this and that, will always be there. It is a matter of setting priorities and recognising that you cannot live in two countries at the same time.
Although these untimely deaths could be caused by other factors, such as heart failure or other underlying causes, many people here in the Diaspora are not putting their own health first. Their motivation to work is driven by the demands for money from relatives back home.
Sally Mpofu’s case is an unfortunate one, especially if it is true that her mother in Zimbabwe was the one to raise an alarm. Did she not have close friends? May her dear soul rest in peace.
But her death also shows the spirit of individualism that is affecting many Zimbabweans here in the UK. We have lost our spirit of living as a community. It’s ‘each man for himself and God for us all’.
Life in the Diaspora, especially in the UK, is very difficult and expensive. Unlike many people in Zimbabwe who own their own houses, most people here are either paying mortgages or renting from private landlords or the Councils.
Of course it’s good to look after our relatives in need, but that should not come at the expense of our lives.


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