Zim a hard sell

HARARE - It is accepted that hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have escaped the deteriorating political, economic and social conditions in this country over the past 13 years.

Estimates put the figure of foreign-based Zimbabweans at three million.

It is a serious indictment on rulers of this country that such a huge number of people would choose to desert the country of their birth.

Many are now domiciled in South Africa, United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US), Australia and Canada, among others countries.

Still more want to leave. The pleas by Zimbabweans in South Africa for permanent settlement in that country should be a source of shame for Zanu PF in particular.

The situation at the Central Methodist Church, housing and catering for Zimbabwean refugees in Johannesburg, should be a scar on the conscience of any responsible government.

Washington Mbizvo, the secretary for Higher and Tertiary Education, recently led a “high-powered delegation” of technocrats to the US to cajole Zimbabweans there to participate in indigenisation and empowerment programme and also lure them back home.

Firstly, the timing of this mission is awkward considering that an election is pending.

Mbizvo and colleagues suggested that indigenisation is irreversible.

But such claims cannot be made with certainty because the MDC has indicated that once it takes over power, it would revise the indigenisation and empowerment regime.

One would not want to invest in such a contested project until the outcome of the elections.

Secondly, it is a fact that our elections have historically been beset with problems since a formidable opposition emerged.

Diasporans are, therefore, unlikely to make decisions on returning until the madness of elections is over and some semblance of future peace is assured.

No right-thinking disaporan is going to take his or her kids to an unstable country.

Many other factors will influence the diasporan’s calculus.

Granted that Zimbabweans in the Diaspora are not all living comfortable lives; many endure rigorous work routines and miss the quintessence of Zimbabwe in many respects.

But diasporic communities have emerged. The longevity of the Zimbabwe crisis has meant that many have pretty much settled into these lifestyles, raised families, bought property and enjoy basic services such as free health service and education.

It is a huge task for Mbizvo to convince these foreign-based Zimbabweans to swap 24-hour electrical and water supplies in their current domiciles for a life of regular cuts to these basic but essential services in Zimbabwe.

It is also hard to persuade professionals, for example doctors in the Diaspora, to return and work in ill-equipped hospitals for a pittance for that matter.

Mbizvo and colleagues seem to pin the campaign on supposed benefits from indigenisation and empowerment.  

But diasporans are also concerned about the political situation.  

To Mbizvo  and his team,  diasporans have been victims of propaganda about local politics.

Such suggestion is rather patronising.

Other than an odd story about the current political developments, President Mugabe’s outrageous birthday party amid  a sea of poverty and the dire situation of children, Zimbabwe is not a permanent fixture in the media discourse in the US and Europe.

The reality is that Zimbabweans in the Diaspora have numerous sources of information about their own country apart from online newspapers. Many diasporans still have relatives, friends and former colleagues in Zimbabwe.

Diasporans are, therefore, capable of forming a balanced view about events in Zimbabwe from many sources.

The truth is that Zimbabwe does not offer the freedoms that disaporans currently enjoy.

It is fact, for example, that people are banged up on stupid grounds of impugning the president, (more than 60 so far, for goodness sake); that Zanu PF refuses to open up the broadcasting industry; that it has generally closed democratic space for dissenters and the opposition and so on.

No “high-powered” delegation can distort these facts.

On the other hand, there are no human gods and goddesses where diasporans live; leaders can be mocked and criticised; there’s no State-sponsored political violence and media available to them are plenty.

Until a radical change in political, economic and social conditions occurs, Zimbabwe remains a hard sell to its own people abroad, let alone to foreigners. - Conrad Nyamutata

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