Diasporans Fall Prey To Home-Based Relatives – Opinion
15 August 2020
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By Masimba Mavaza

Zimbabweans in the Diaspora are estimated at three million and it is generally considered to be a well-educated group, living mainly in Europe, South Africa and the United States of America.

Most Zimbabweans in the Diaspora have one mind and one mind only, to come back home and spend the final days with kinsman.

Being powered by such noble end, Zimbabweans work extremely hard with the aim of developing back home in order to have a soft landing when the winds of return blow them home.

Home is always best and indeed people itch to be home with all sorts of relations.

Zimbabweans abroad have done all in their might to invest back at home in many different areas.

Unfortunately, many of these have lost substantial amounts of money in their attempts to invest back home.

Mr Thomas Veremu decided to send a car to Zimbabwe.

His idea was his family in Zimbabwe would not have problems with transport.

He bought a beautiful Mercedes ML which was a seven-seater and assured his family that their transport problems would be over.

He made all the arrangements with a shipping company and within a few days the vehicle was in the sea towards Africa.

He was informed the ship would take three weeks to dock in Namibia and the car would be in Zimbabwe in days after that.

On the docking day, Thomas was asked to pay off his shipping and port charges which he gladly did.

Throughout the time he was kept informed of every inch the ship took.

After payment of the required fees Thomas did not hear from the shipping agent. He made several calls and could not get any response.

He tried all he could do to get in touch with the shipping agent, but it was not to be.

He lost his car and the shipping costs.

In the meantime, the family lost trust in him and started calling him names.

Thomas is not the only Zimbabwean who has lost his hard-earned cash to the Zimbabweans.

Meshack Johns tells a story of how he sent money home to his brother to build a house for him.

He spent five months being sent photos from the neighbours’ house.

All hell broke loose when he travelled to Zimbabwe. There was no house built and indeed he discovered the truth thousands of pounds later.

He discovered that his brother had lived a very extravagant life on the money he sent home for the house. He is still struggling with his mind whether he should go back to develop his home in Zimbabwe.

In 2018, Brian Sibanda, living in the UK, decided to build residential apartments in Harare, to rent out.

“I was working double shifts in a care home in the UK while my wife was working three jobs. According to our plan, the apartments would provide us with additional income,” he said with anger all over his face.

So Sibanda started sending about a thousand dollars to his brother every fortnight to facilitate the construction.

To reassure him, his brother regularly sent him pictures of the building under construction as well as the receipts for the building materials such as cement and quarry stones.

He was asked to send a lorry and a van which would be of great help in the project.

Trusting his brother with his life, he took a loan from the bank.

When he decided to visit and check on his investment later, in 2020, he had already sunk more than 50 000 pounds sterling into the venture. But to his shock and utter dismay, all the money had gone down the drain.

The brother became elusive and there was no construction project going on.

He wept when he narrated the story.

He discovered that the photos his brother had been sending him were not of his apartments, but someone else’s project.

His land lay bare, with not as much as a foundation dug.

“I was furious. My brother avoided me for a couple of weeks, but I finally cornered him at a relative’s house. When I confronted him, he had the cheek to ask me why I would get mad at him, his blood brother,” recounted Sibanda bitterly.

The distressed fellow, who had been in the UK for close to a decade at the time, contemplated suing his brother to compel him to pay back the money that had been pumped into the young brother’s non-existent business.

However, relatives advised him against it, saying such a move would strain relationships with the extended family.

“My wife and children were mad at me because of my brother’s actions and it nearly broke up my marriage,” he said.

Sibanda sold the land and resolved never to invest in Zimbabwe.

Many Zimbos in the UK have come with tales of how they have lost monies sent back home as an investment.

I have realised that Zimbabweans here are ignorant of how the property market back home operates.

With the news of ‘free’ land reaching the shores of the UK, some unscrupulous people have taken advantage of the people here who want to invest in property.

Now those who have burnt their fingers in the fire of trust strongly advise fellow Zimbabweans against sending money to relatives at home to invest on their behalf.

But sometimes the people living in the Diaspora are to blame for their naivety.

How can someone send thousands of dollars to an old mother who has never done a single property transaction in her life and expect her to buy him a piece of prime land in Borrowdale!

How can one send money to a little-exposed brother in Chitungwiza to buy him/her an apartment in Mount Pleasant?

Aren’t you deliberately throwing that person at the deep end where he/she will definitely drown?

It is critical to be professional and avoid relatives and friends when it comes to investing.

Deal with reputable firms.

There is an erroneous belief that those in the Diaspora have easy access to money which has led to relatives and friends having no qualms abusing monies sent to them to invest.

People overseas are working hard, hence their desire to invest back home.

Even when dealing with real estate companies, Zimbabweans living abroad still insist on involving their relatives to play a supervisory role.

This is not always a good option as it provides avenues for realtors to collude with relatives and swindle the Diasporans.

It is sad that some trusted relatives of those who wish to invest back in Zimbabwe often approach companies asking if they can inflate prices by several thousands.

When the companies refuse to do so, they call their relatives abroad and tell them that the firm is not legit and move on to the next firm that will agree to their unscrupulous collusion.

Many have lost their entire life savings.

Trucks and vans for transport businesses have been registered in other people’s names.

Relations have soured and broken down as a result of money.

It has become difficult for Zimbabweans to do much in the face of their relatives who are like vampires waiting to suck even life out of the pocket of the hard-working trusting Zimbabweans. –