Hardest hit are families from dry provinces of Matabeleland North and South that have the highest number of people who flocked to South Africa to look for greener pastures in the past decade.
Most people who spoke to The Standard recently, said the deportations have condemned many families to lives of destitution.
This is compounded by the fact that the provinces receive very low rainfall, rendering any meaningful agricultural activities difficult to sustain without irrigation.
Ronald Mamabolo (75) from Ntepe in Gwanda, who had three sons deported last year, said the support he used to get from his sons has drastically been reduced since the time they were forced to return home.
“I had five children who were working in South Africa.
“However, since the deportations began, three of my sons were returned home,” said Mamabolo.
“As such, it means that the money and food I was receiving from my children has been reduced and that reduction is too much, considering that Gwanda is a dry area.”
Vice-president of the Zimbabwe Unemployed People’s Association (Zupa) Mqondisi Moyo said deportations have worsened poverty in most areas in Matabeleland.
“Most of these people relied mostly on food and money sent by the relatives and the recent deportations will defiantly increase the levels of poverty in most areas,” said Moyo, whose organisation has about 8 000 members countrywide.
The deportations have also affected people in urban areas who have also been reliant on relatives working in South Africa.
Tawanda Moyo (55) from Bulawayo said he also had been surviving on food sent by his sons working in South Africa since he was retrenched in 2009.
But life for him has changed for the worst since the deportation of his sons.
A Southern African Migration Programme (Samp) sample survey conducted in 2005, revealed that for most of the 1980s, about 200 000 people crossed from Zimbabwe into South Africa each year.
In the early 1990s, with the growing economic hardship in Zimbabwe, the numbers increased dramatically, peaking at 750 000 in 1994.
Increasing political repression and economic hardship in the country, saw the number of people crossing into South Africa topping 500 000 in 2000 and by 2008, the figure had more than doubled to about 1,25 million.
The Samp survey also reveals that within the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) in 2001, 55% of Zimbabwean migrants were in South Africa, followed by Mozambique (17%), Zambia (16%) and Malawi 16%.
Between May 2009 and July 2011, the South African government gave Zimbabweans living in that country temporary deportation reprieve while it engaged in a process to regularise their stay.
During that period, Zimbabweans with passports were encouraged to come forward and apply for four-year work, study and living permits in that country.
But the South African Home Affairs department said it managed to process 275 000 permits out of an estimated two million Zimbabweans living in that country.