Diaspora most viable exports

HARARE - Last week, both President Robert Mugabe and his deputy Joice Mujuru addressed the issue of Diasporans, the former, chiding them for leaving their own country, and the latter imploring them to return and help “rebuild” Zimbabwe.

Mugabe sounded aggrieved that the Zimbabwean migrants had been accepted in their present domiciles as running away from his “evil regime”.

Unless Mugabe is completely out of touch, he would know that his Zanu PF supporters committed some horrific acts with impunity in years gone by. Evidence abounds — from the Chiminyas to the Ndiras; it is all there.

Mugabe cannot possibly compare the environment his regime has created to most of the Diasporans’ present domiciles. 

Here, people are arrested for the most innocuous statements on allegations of demeaning him.

Now, take where the Diasporans live. They barely encounter political violence.  Leaders have been the subject of all sorts of attacks.

Last year, British comedian Russell Brand described Prime Minister David Cameron as “filthy, dirty, posh…” followed by an unprintable word. Most recently, Piers Morgan described Cameron as “a self-serving, soulless weasel”.

Both men walk the streets free. In Zimbabwe, the two would be in a filthy, dirty and not-so-posh slammer.

President Barack Obama has also been rudely interrupted during speeches, and at times, described in the most derogatory of terms. Some leaders are even been pelted with eggs.

These are not perfect societies. But what Diasporans have now learnt is that presidents or prime ministers are not gods; they are human beings who, owing to expectations vested in them, invite public anger expressed in harmless ways ever so often.

Apologists will, of course, point to cultural asymmetries. But a culture that creates demigods in humans, does not accept the reality of harmless anger or, worse still, accepts the murder of its own with impunity is most despicable.

Mugabe is right; not every Diasporan suffered persecution. Some left for economic reasons.

But why should we be obsessed about migrants who left Zimbabwe 10 or so years ago or on the reasons they left?

The only thing to do now is to accept the reality of a Zimbabwean Diaspora.

Politicians like Mujuru should not be exhorting the Diasporans to return and “rebuild” Zimbabwe either.
Around the time Mugabe was fulminating over the migrants, it was reported by State media that these Zimbabweans in the

Diaspora remitted $1,4 billion in the past two years;  the figure could even be higher if non-formal remittances were included.

It turns out then that while Mugabe, to borrow American colloquialism, “disses” migrants, these migrants have, in fact, become Zimbabwe’s most viable exports over the years, outperforming even diamonds.

In 2012, Zimbabwe earned $684,5 million from the stones.

On the other hand, statistics from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe indicate that in 2012, total remittances from the Diaspora, including those of industrial organisations, amounted to $2,1 billion, while in 2013 remittances totalled $1,8 billion.

Compare that to total traditional exports, probably including the diamonds, of $1,546 billion the same year.

Diasporans are doing far more in “rebuilding” the country from their current domiciles than they would in employment-less Zimbabwe.

It is probably Zimbabwe, or to be specific Zanu PF, that routinely “disses” its Diaspora. Other countries respect and recognise the importance of their citizens living abroad and are finding ways of tapping into the Diasporans.

Research by a Hong Kong-based Ghanaian academic Adams Bodomo showed that Africans living outside the continent send more money home to their families than is sent by traditional Western aid donors in the form of Official Development Assistance (ODA).

For instance, in 2010, the African Diaspora remitted $51,8 billion compared to $43 billion in ODA to Africa, according to World Bank figures.

At $1,4 billion, the Zimbabwean Diaspora is not doing too badly, is it?

Zimbabwe, in particular Zanu PF, would do well, first, to accept and respect the Diaspora, and secondly, find ways of tapping into it productively than take every opportunity to call them back or hurl abuse at them.

Comments (5)

I agree. Let's continue to invest and build our country from our external earnings. The day will come when it all pays. We will go back even with those farmers now exporting food to Zimbabwe from Zambia, Nigeria etc.. See how the skyline is full of cranes in other cities in Africa, eg Ethiopia, Angola, mozambique, while in Zim the only building going on is for the luxurious homes of the chefs! No one cares about pot holes, lack of flowing water or power. No. As long as our chefs build their mansions.....a sign of our sovereignty. Cry the beloved country!

Dr Tapera - 22 July 2014

Quite a good article however Conrad takes a little shine off it by using the word 'disses' when disrespects is a perfectly acceptable & well understood word.

saundy - 23 July 2014

Mr President shouts at diasporans while his vice calls them back to help rebuild the country. Unotoshaya kuti zvinombofamba sei.But I don't see diasporans coming to jobless Zimbabwe.After all ZPF refused them the right to vote for the country they are now being called to come & help rebuild.


My question probably is, what has the diaporans done to deserve to be insulted. I assume they are living wherever they went, are not voting anyone out of power (that right was taken away from them), and are just taking care of their families through the remitting funds and investing when they feel necessary. Why are they being insulted really or called back when we have a pool of unemployed people (up to 80%) whop can do the job just like the diasporans?

JSC - 24 July 2014

Thanks for this very well-informed and analytical article. It is unfortunate that President Mugabe makes these virulent outbursts against diasporans who are busy trying to make ends meet in their new countries. The old president finds someone or a group or nation to insult at every funeral. Since he has said the economy is doing just fine, why does he then take time off to insult citizens whom he does not even want to express their democratic rights by voting? Not so long ago he said the fact that we have such a huge number of people working in the diaspora means our education is of high quality. And Chinamasa was pleading with the UK government not to send Zimbabweans back home because he knows how much the diasporans contribute to the economy. As for Mai Mujuru, she is downright ignorant of the importance of what she says.She wants diasporans to come and rebuild so that ZPF youths and ZPF chefs can have something to destroy. Shame!

Chenjerai Hove - 24 July 2014

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