The Role of the Diaspora to Zimbabwe’s reconstruction revisited – By Lloyd Msipa

OPINION – There is a general is misconception by some Zimbabweans at home that all Zimbabweans living abroad are a class of people who are either struggling in foreign countries and living destitute lives despite their professional credentials acquired either in Zimbabwe or in the country they have moved to.

Some have even gone to the extent of dismissing the potential input by this class of people into the GNU government by way of policy recommendations and the reconstruction of Zimbabwe in general.

Another leading blogger with a myopic perception of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora has gone on further to say that the role of the Diaspora community in now irrelevant as Zimbabwe was now slowly returning back to normalcy. Their role according to him was limited to providing sustenance funds which was largely used for consumptive purposes. Hence beyond the need for groceries and fuel largely financed in foreign currency for the better part of the last eight years by the Diaspora community, Zimbabwe has no need for them. They do not possess sufficient capital to make any meaningful contribution to get industry and the economy running, their role therefore is either limited or no longer needed.

This view of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora is very ill informed and let alone potentially selfish. Talk about biting the hand that feeds thee. It is a truism that Zimbabweans in the Diaspora single handedly managed to sustain Zimbabwe during one of the most difficult times in its history through remittances. The impact of remittances was so significant to a point that even the Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono travelled to a number of western countries were Zimbabweans are domiciled to solicit for their money to be transmitted to Zimbabwe via the Home link programme. The recent dollarization of the Zimbabwean economy following the formation of the all inclusive government has made it more difficult for the average Zimbabwean abroad to send large amounts of money as the exchange rate advantage provided for by the Zimbabwe dollar is now a thing of the past. The global recession affecting most first world countries has not helped matters either.

Whilst it is a fact that Zimbabweans abroad do not necessarily have the required capital to input into the economy to get industry working again, it is also equally true that Zimbabweans at home do not have the money either. It is therefore a futile exercise for Zimbabweans at home to expect more from Zimbabweans in the Diaspora and less from themselves.

The mass exodus of Zimbabweans post 2000 from their country of origin was unprecedented in the history of Zimbabwe. It took away a class of people who relied on salaries and credit for their day to day subsistence. The last time Zimbabweans left their country in significantly large numbers was before independence. Even then, most came back soon after 1980 and a large number of them are today in positions of influence both in politics and commerce. Emigration whether temporarily or permanently is not unique to Zimbabwe. When the living standards of a country plummet, it is usually the middle class that is impacted first. This is the class of people that held all the professional jobs that are currently vacant or short staffed and incidentally this is the class of people that drive any economy worldwide.

Zimbabwe is not unique in this sense. Before the formation of the all inclusive government, Zimbabwe had no economy to talk about. Zimbabwe had no formal sector to talk about. Zimbabweans literally survived neku khiya khiya (sic)(wayward means of acquiring something) to borrow the terminology used to describe the process by which Tendai Biti, the finance minister used to find the salaries of civil servants last month.

Zimbabwe has over the last eight years or so seen the proliferation of wily dealers, ordinarily referred to as the informal sector. There is no way this class of people will be able to alone transform the informal sector back to the formal sector were by the government can start to benefit by way of taxes and other ways of revenue. This class of Zimbabweans have not paid a dime in taxes for the last eight years or so. The finance minister, Tendai Biti confirmed this when he said there was a need to get the tax system working again at the launch of STERP (Short Term Economic Turn Round Programme)

The all inclusive government will need to look into the Diaspora in order to head hunt the requisite skills and expertise required in order to get Zimbabwe working again. Zimbabwe is endowed with professionals many who hold qualifications and experiences required to input into the policy formulations processes of government.

What the all inclusive government should be considering now is how to best attract Zimbabweans back into the country. What packages can the government put in place to get Zimbabwean professionals back into the country to lend support to the reconstruction of our beloved country?

The Diaspora is endowed with Teachers, Nurses, Lawyers, Engineers, Doctors, Journalists, Social workers and other experts the new inclusive government can take advantage of. Zimbabwean professionals are littered all over the world from South Africa, The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the United States of America and as far afield as China. It is by no means an accident that the South African government has decided to regularise the stay of thousands of Zimbabweans in South Africa at this eleventh hour.

They plan to continue to tap into the expertise that Zimbabwean professionals provide long after Zimbabwe has normalised. The role of the Diaspora cannot and must not be limited to providing sustenance funds as the critic of the role Zimbabweans in the Diaspora insinuated. Zimbabweans in the Diaspora will be instrumental in diluting the culture of ku khiya khiya that has permeated the fabric of Zimbabwean society in the last eight years or so by re introducing professionalism in the conduct of our day to day lives. We must remember that the Zimbabweans in the Diaspora have been living in stable democracies for the better part of 10 years and hence gained a lot of Knowledge and cultures that will be useful in a new Zimbabwe.

The writer Lloyd Msipa is resident in the United Kingdom. He can be contacted at lmsipalaw@googlemail.com. Read more from Lloyd at http//:www.lmsipa.com or http://msipa.blogspot.com/