Nomsa Chitongo’s wedding was one of the best in town. Her new husband, a Nigerian businessman, made sure that she got everything she had dreamt of on her special day.
“I was treated like a queen, he was so romantic to the extent of massaging my feet. All my childhood wishes were within my reach and I was just a 19-year-old straight from school. What else could I have asked for?” she said.
Five years down, Nomsa regrets ever having met the man. The only link she still has with the man is their four-year-old son, whom she is struggling to look after.
Nomsa discovered that the man had a family in Nigeria, and has since returned to his home country.
“He told me that the only reason he married me was to make his stay comfortable and to make it easy for him to acquire citizenship status,” she recalled.
“I was heartbroken and I will never forgive myself for having fallen for him.”
Nomsa is one of the women who have discovered that foreign nationals took them for a ride. Last year, a soldier discovered that his wife was planning to have a secret wedding with another Nigerian.
Another woman who fell victim to this phenomenon said most women fall for the trap because they are pampered with gifts and blinkered with money.
“I was introduced to the man by my friend and he was so considerate. He would spend a fortune on me and I thought he was ‘Mr Nice’.
After the wedding all hell broke loose. He started accusing Zimbabwean women of being gold diggers.
So he left and I don’t even know where he is. I was evicted from the house we rented and I have since moved back in with my parents,” said the woman.
A Nigerian man said that while sometimes those marriages were based on love, most of them were convenience-based as the foreigners just wanted a channel through which to easily acquire the requisite documents to set up businesses.
“Zimbabwean women are well-cultured and beautiful. They don’t shout like their Nigerian sisters. They are very submissive and we tend to fall in love with them.
“The problem with us is that we would have left our families back home and when I think of going back, I cannot take back excess baggage with me. What would my wife think?” he said.
“It’s natural that a man needs a woman by his side. Women provide the comfort and security when we are in a foreign land. They also help us to acquire licences and citizenship. They also help us to get premises to operate from and that is the main reason we marry them.”
Another Chinese businessman said because of China’s one-child policy, they preferred local women as they were able to have a large family.
“Where we come from, we are only allowed to have one child, but here the situation is different so we tend to love local women. The only problem is when we want to relocate to another country when the business is no longer viable. I would prefer to meet another woman in the host country than to relocate with the one here. We are soldiers of fortune, it makes sense that way,” he said.
Since the introduction of the multi-currency regime in 2009, the economy had significantly stabilised and many foreign nationals who were making lots of money through money laundering and on the foreign currency parallel market have found the going tough and have since left.
This has left many women married to these foreigners counting their losses. The majority of them are just abandoned with no incomes, but with children to look after.
Social commentator Pardon Taodzera said it was a global trend for men seeking greener pastures to be involved in romantic affairs with the local women in exchange for favours.
“We also had cases of Zimbabwean men in Diaspora involved in the same ‘bubble gum’ relationships. Some have gone to the extent of abandoning their families,” he said.
University of Zimbabwe lecturer Tawanda Zinyama said women should be wary of their foreign husbands because sometimes they are just pawns in an economic game.
“They are just being used. Some of them are left with children without birth certificates and no skills whatsoever. These people (foreign nationals) are very clever; they employ their so-called wives at tills in their shops. The women do not know where the products for resale in the shop are purchased. They should be actively involved in the day-to-day running of the business because these people can not be trusted.
“Since they are legally married, women should have their fair share of the assets so that they would at least be left in a good position to take care of themselves and their children,” he said.
The same pattern was witnessed, according to those in the older generation, when Malawi nationals migrated to the then Southern Rhodesia in the 1960s.
During the era of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, some local women fell for Malawian men who lived in towns and were said to be very cunning. But when the Federation collapsed many of them were left with children while the men returned home.
In recent years, nationals including Nigerians, Congolese and Chinese have found a home in Zimbabwe. Over the past three years, the Department of Immigration has deported many of them, the majority of whom had entered the country illegally.
In June last year, over 87 foreigners from 14 countries, most of them involved in diverse business ventures, were deported.
Investigations showed that some of the affected immigrants had entered into marriages of convenience with Zimbabwean nationals while others were involved in illicit deals that included human trafficking.
Assistant regional immigration officer Evans Siziba was on record saying most of the deportees came into the country on the pretext of seeking refugee status.