Doberman wrote earlier about the eviction of white non-farmers from their land in Zimbabwe. Following on from this is the news that up to 500 destitute Britons living in Zimbabwe are to be repatriated after their savings and pensions were wiped out by President Robert Mugabe's economic policies.
By Peta Thornycroft in Harare
Last Updated: 5:08PM BST 27 May 2009
The first five will return this weekend after the British embassy in Harare arranged for them to be flown home.
The group, which includes former colonial administrators, wives and civil servants, have seen their assets destroyed by hyperinflation.
Their air fares are being paid by the British taxpayer and officials said each person would be given permanent accommodation in Britain and the same entitlement to state benefits as any other pensioner.
Fred Noble, a 78-year-old Scot, will return to Fife this weekend, 51 years after he and his wife departed with £100 for what was then Britain’s Crown Colony of Southern Rhodesia. He worked for Rhodesian Railways, retiring on a pension with medical aid 13 years ago.
“I helped more people than helped me and I deserve a Christian burial. I don’t want to get ill in Zimbabwe,” said Mr Noble, who lost his wife four years ago and was the second pensioner to apply for “repatriation” at the British Embassy.
Mr Mugabe’s bankrupt regime stopped paying his pension five years ago, leaving Mr Noble dependent on his investments.
When Zimbabwe’s inflation reached more than 230 million per cent, the value of his portfolio plunged to less than a penny.
“We didn’t do anything wrong, we paid taxes, invested for our old age. My wife used to say, 'All this place has is sunshine, we are wasting our lives here’. My sister, Gwen in UK, sent me £1,600 and it’s gone now,” said Mr Noble. “I was second to apply to go and we had two weeks to prepare to leave.”
To fund his new life in Britain, he will sell his 1967 car and a television for about £250. But some prized possessions will stay behind. “I have an elephant-skin waistcoat - I was a dandy you know - and two pairs of handmade shoes, the best Rhodesia produced,” said Mr Noble. “I’ll give them away. I will take photos, the Bible my wife gave me and my Robbie Burns.”
Anne Budden, 83, is leaving the land of her birth because she can no longer bear to be “a burden on my daughters in Zimbabwe”. She added: “Their husbands are nearing retirement age. They keep on saying I should change my mind, but I must go. My hip operation took my last money. Our three pensions, on which we lived well, disappeared about five years ago.”
Mrs Budden, who was widowed two years ago, lives in a rented flat in Harare, paid for by another daughter in Britain. “I have a lovely life, shielded from what is going on outside, with space, nice people, and my own garden, and I will miss that and especially my two daughters in Zimbabwe who protect me from hardship.”
Although she has spent a lifetime in Africa, Mrs Budden has always cherished her attachment to Britain. “I am leaving the country of my birth but going to the land of my ancestors,” she said. “I love the Queen and I have a daughter in the UK.”
She will move to Farnborough, near another friend from Harare who will also leave this weekend. “We need to support each other as we start new lives,” said Mrs Budden.
British diplomats in Harare have quietly identified pensioners with British citizenship and no means of support. But the Embassy declined to comment on the official repatriation scheme.
About 1,500 other Zimbabwean pensioners have no foreign citizenship, no family and no means of escape. As each penniless Briton departs, a new charity will be able to give more help to those who are left behind. The charity, Zimbabwe: A National Emergency (ZANE), will be their only lifeline.