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How ICT brigdes The Resilience of Transnational Families Between Zimbabwe and South Africa

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louis Buyisiwe

Apr 1, 2024

Zimbabwean Migration to South Africa

The migration journey from Zimbabwe to South Africa over the last two decades, primarily driven by political instability and economic decline in Zimbabwe, embodies not just a search for better economic opportunities but also a complex web of familial sacrifices and adjustments. This intricate dance between hope and hardship is vividly captured through the experiences of individuals like Chipo, a 40-year-old parent who left her child behind in pursuit of a brighter future. Chipo's narrative, as featured in the book Transnational Families in Africa, sheds light on the paradoxical nature of migration: the act of leaving to provide, yet in doing so, disrupting the very familial fabric one hopes to strengthen.

The Role of Technology in Sustaining Bonds

In the digital era, tools like WhatsApp have become lifelines for transnational families, offering a semblance of normalcy and daily connection despite the physical divide. Chipo's story highlights how technology facilitates not just casual updates but also significant familial interactions, from morning greetings to discussing pressing issues. Yet, this digital connection is not without its challenges. The high cost of data, particularly in Zimbabwe, often limits these interactions to text and voice messages, leaving video calls - a more intimate form of communication - as a less frequent option.

The Asymmetry of Communication

The disparity in communication costs and access between Zimbabwe and South Africa points to a broader issue of digital inequality. This gap not only affects the frequency and quality of communication but also the ability of migrants to provide care from afar. Despite these hurdles, the determination to maintain familial bonds and provide support transcends these barriers. Chipo's efforts to coordinate medical care for her son from miles away exemplify the innovative ways migrants navigate these challenges to fulfill their roles as caregivers.

Beyond Financial Remittances

The narrative surrounding migration often centers on financial remittances; however, the exchange of care in transnational families encompasses much more. From health advice to ensuring access to necessities, migrants like Chipo are engaged in a constant effort to cater to their families' needs from a distance. This multifaceted exchange of care highlights the adaptability and resilience of transnational families, who creatively use technology to bridge the gap.

The Unspoken Elements of Digital Communication

Communication in transnational families is as much about what is conveyed as what is deliberately left unsaid. Instances where families choose not to share certain information, such as health concerns, to avoid causing worry, underscore the emotional complexities of long-distance relationships. These decisions, while made out of care, can add layers of anxiety, especially in times of global crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Silent Strength of Transnational Families

The migration story from Zimbabwe to South Africa is emblematic of a broader narrative of sacrifice, resilience, and adaptation. Through the lens of individuals like Chipo, we gain insights into the nuanced ways families navigate the challenges of distance, maintain emotional connections, and provide care across borders. In doing so, they redefine the essence of family in a transnational context, illustrating that even in separation, the bonds of kinship and love persist, adapting and thriving in the face of adversity.

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