Experiences of Zimbabwean migrant

The construction of the life-size replica of the Berlin Wall in front of the Senate House is completed. Among others, Robson Clifford Guragena was coordinating the construction works. Robson lives with his wife and his baby in Johannesburg. As a Zimbabwean, Robson is also a ?specialist? in crossing borders, and mastering ?the walls? of administrative constraints in order to get from one side to the other.

He left Zimbabwe because of the repressive political situation in the country. That means violent raids by the state, but also an economic crisis that has made life almost impossible. In South Africa he retained political asylum and the opportunity to earn a living.

The history of the Berlin Wall was not part of his education in Zimbabwe. The construction of the replica is his first encounter with the concrete border that divided Germany into two parts.

While people from Western Germany only had to handle uneasy ?Vopos?

(Volkspolizisten/ ?Members of the GDR Police and border patrols), for people from the East it was almost impossible to cross the Wall. Those who tried, were confronted with highly engineered safety measures like the wall, electric fencing, spring guns, watchtowers, and a state safety police that often reached into the personal realms of the citizens. This is ?almost the same thing, like some people don?t come to South Africa straight, they jump the border, they came through the rivers, and there are crocodiles and other dangers in the river, many of the refugees are dying in the rivers. Some of them are being robbed, there are people that stay in the bush catching people. So it?s the same thing, it?s almost the same situation that divides Zim from South Africa.? Asking if it would be an idea to break down the borders between the two county Robson replies: ?That I think it would be an idea, we all wish that, we should have one place whereby I can go and stay near my relatives but living under same conditions with South Africans, like be the same country, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

You know we need to do one thing and believe in each other, working together, and trust in the officials to do one thing.?

Robson wishes to go back to his home country and his family and friends a soon as the situation in Zimbabwe allows this. Despite the feeling of belonging to his hometown, crime and xenophobia makes it difficult for him to stay in South Africa. But he also expresses hope for the future and an improving situation in both countries: ?This Wall in Berlin there, it is not no longer, there is freedom for everybody. The time here is up now. I think the same change will happen in Zimbabwe soon, soon, soon. Maybe if Zimbabwe will get fine, South Africa will say ?lets break up borders?. That would be great!

written by
Matthias Gruber

Ph.D. student of the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
He is currently doing research in South Africa.

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