The Embassy of Zimbabwe says it has been inundated by distress calls from Zimbabwean nationals in South Africa who have asked to return home.
They say they can no longer sustain themselves in South Africa due to the lockdown.
In a statement on Wednesday, the embassy said it had provided permits for those who had their own means of transport back to Zimbabwe and have provided transport for those who do not.
“The embassy subsequently received plentiful distress calls from some Zimbabwean nationals who are in South Africa.
“The embassy was inundated with requests, varying from appeals for help with food supplies, pleas from Zimbabweans with their own means to travel back home, and petitions from Zimbabwean nationals in need of transportation back home.”
The embassy has organised travel permits for self-repatriation – those who are able to use their own transport to get back home.
It has also organised buses in collaboration with the department of international relations and cooperation to repatriate Zimbabweans.
“[M]any have since travelled back home, while others are still waiting for their travel permits.
“There are buses set to ferry Zimbabwean nationals back home, under the self-funded repatriation where the travellers pay for their own transportation,” the embassy said.
The buses abide by Covid-19 regulations to limit the number of passengers to 70% of the carrying capacity.
“A considerable number of the requests received by the embassy are for assistance on humanitarian grounds from Zimbabwean nationals who, during this lockdown in South Africa, are no longer able to sustain their stay in the country due to loss of incomes,” it said.
In partnership with Justice Maphosa, the CEO of the Bigtime Strategic Group, transport has been made available to Zimbabwean nationals who cannot afford to travel home.
“The International Organisation for Migration, the United Nations migration agency, is providing technical support to the embassy in planning and carrying out this humanitarian repatriation exercise.
“The technical support includes coordination of pre-departure arrangements, pre-embarkation medical checks and distribution of Covid-19-related awareness material,” the embassy said.
It added everyone would be subject to quarantine at designated facilities once in Zimbabwe, whose government will carry the costs.
“Subsequent communication will be made regarding the assistance for distressed Zimbabwean nationals who elect to remain within the borders of South Africa,” the embassy said.