SUNDAY DEBATE with Mazara: Diaspora isn’t always greener

Garikai Mazara (EXTRA editor)

Garikai Mazara (EXTRA editor)

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Many of our Zimbabwean-based readers might have noticed that this past festive season, fewer people from the Diaspora than usual made it back home to celebrate with friends and family.

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Though figures might not be easy to come by, the most noticeable absentees were our South African-based brothers and sisters, who are usually very conspicuous when they come; either through the easy-to-recognise vehicle number plates, the accompanying high levels of decibels emitting from the same, and the unmistakable fashion often influenced by Jozi trends.

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Whereas the South Africa-based Zimbabweans are easy to notice because of their vehicle registration numbers (whether these vehicles would have been hired or bought on hire purchase is something else), those coming in from the United Kingdom, the States, Canada and Australia are not easy to recognise. Most often they sneak in, hire cars, fly out to local destinations, spend nights and weeks in hotels and then return.

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[SEE ALSO: Little Andrea yet to be buried]

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But bottom line is, there was subdued activity between Zimbabwe and her Diaspora-based offspring.

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There could have been a number of reasons for this, from the weakening rand to that Zimbabwe is no longer using a local currency but the international ones. Previously, someone coming from the UK would bring a thousand pounds and exchange it on the black market – and the whole village would feast to no end.

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Ditto for the brother travelling from Wenera, a R5 000 festive holiday allowance would have made him royal. Not anymore. R5 000 is just US0, if not even less.

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And by Zimbabwean standards US0 is a measly sum to budget for festive spending. The guys in Harare usually blow those sick amounts of money per night.

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In years gone by, Diasporans would come home for the festive season and join in the fun. Remember we were a nation used to many zeros and we would spend by the zeros.

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Diasporans, wanting to match Zimbabwean standards, often had to seek bus fares to go back “home”. Those flying were usually saved by having bought a return ticket.

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The long and short of it all is that life in the Diaspora is no longer the same it was a decade or so back. Worse when it comes to South Africa-based Zimbabweans, they are no better than Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe.

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In South Africa, there are a number of issues to contend with, from the high levels of crime, being over-qualified for a job (many degree-holders are waiters and waitresses) to power cuts which are now rampant there.

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What the South Africa-based Zimbabweans might boast of, that which we don’t have in Zimbabwe, could only be McDonalds.

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Outside of that, we could be living the same kind of lifestyle, if not better, given that we are at home, where we don’t run away from our shadows.

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Besides, we are able to attend family events as and when we want. It could be birthdays, weddings, funerals, memorials, bride price-paying ceremonies, etc.

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I had the occasion to attend a funeral recently, whose wake took almost a week, because the family was waiting for someone in the Diaspora (the colder parts of this earth) and thus the burial could not proceed.

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When the said Diasporan arrived, a majority of mourners were shocked as to why they had been made to wait for a week.

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The guy brought not much difference, nor deference.

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Having managed to interest you this far, what I am simply trying to examine is Jimmy’s decision to quit Zimbabwe for the Diaspora.

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Last Sunday, we discussed the “Zimbabwean Dream” and how the failed dream might have led or is leading characters in the mould of Jimmy to jump ship.

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This week I shall not bore you with Jimmy and why he wants out. We all know how much our country is worth and what it is worth dying for.

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Rather, I would like to bring to your attention the sad story of little Andrea, who was run over by a vehicle in the United Kingdom just before Christmas, killing her.

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Her parents have been trying since Christmas to have their relatives travel to the UK for little Andrea’s funeral. The British, in typical fashion, have been snobbish, alleging that Andrea’s grandparents had never been out of Zimbabwe their entire lives, and there is a greater risk that they might grow into thin air once they get into the UK.

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For their part, Wellington and Charity, Andrea’s parents, have even offered that their parents, Andrea’s grandparents, can wear electronic tracking devices so that the British Home Office can monitor their movements once they land in the United Kingdom, and that upon Andrea’s burial, the grandparents would return to Zimbabwe.

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An online petition has since been launched to force British prime minister David Cameroon to intervene in the visa saga and allow the grandparents to travel to the United Kingdom.

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£5 000 has been raised so far, so that the grandparents travel for the funeral and burial. By the time of writing this, the child was yet to be buried.

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Honestly, how low can one sink? I am not privy to the reasons why the Gadas would want their child interred in the UK, but I am not sure if I am the only one who has been smoking a different brand, to notice that there is something wrong in opting to have your parents tagged. Just for the sake of a burial.

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Honestly, honestly, how low can one sink?

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Can you hate your country, and its kinsmen, that much? To the extent that you would rather have your parents tagged, instead of you taking the child for burial back in Zimbabwe.

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I am not sure if I am the one missing the point or not, but with £5 000 already raised, isn’t it prudent to fly the little girl back and be buried here? Or is it the Gada’s have forsaken Zimbabwe that much, that they wouldn’t want their children to be buried here?

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What has happened to their Zimbabwean-ness?

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There could be reasons which are informing their decision to hold on to the burial of the little girl for close to seven weeks now but rationale would have let them bury their little child.

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In their petition, they cite religious and cultural beliefs as holding them back from burying the little one, in the absence of their parents.

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Really? If the cultural beliefs are so strong, then why not fly the little girl and bury her within the midst of her ilk? This is the same Diaspora that Jimmy has packed his bags to go to, from where they would not want to come back to bury their relatives. I am not sure if Jimmy has also reached that stage, where he despises Zimbabwe such that he would not even want to have anything more to do with the country.

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The Gadas who are battling to have their parents join them in the United Kingdom for the funeral and burial of their loved little daughter, the many Diasporans who failed to come back this past festive, the many other Diasporans who fail to make it to the funerals and burials – and even memorial services -of their loved ones, are all part of the reasons why the Diaspora, once the envy of many a decade or so ago, no longer has the same attractiveness. How many of your readers have made appointments with your relatives and friends in neighbouring South Africa, that you might be visiting and might need a place to sleep overnight, and they promise you that it won’t be much of a hassle, getting you somewhere to lay your head for a night or two.

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Get to Park Station or OR Tambo terminal, whichever suits your pocket, and the relative’s number, all of a sudden, becomes unreachable.

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Either they don’t have the said place for you to lay your head for a night or two, or that the stories that they tell when they come here, are long tales.

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To those who have not had the chance to travel to some of the so-called greener destinations, you really can’t fault their perceptions that the grass might be greener there, but to those who have had the opportunity to, will readily tell of the discomfort of travelling with your passport in your pocket all the time (that it is better to lose your money than your passport), will tell you how safe it is in Harare, how it feels so free to go and braai on a Saturday afternoon and link up with family the following Sunday.

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Admittedly, we have different aspirations in life. There are those who go to the Diaspora to make the quick buck, and be able to buy a house, a nice car and come back (which the rational ones have done).

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Must I also add that they are also coming back now in their dozens and droves. Then there are those who are finding it overwhelming to come back – but because they have nothing to show for the so-many years in the Diaspora – have been putting their coming back on hold.

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Until such a time they have acquired something to prove that they were, indeed, in the Diaspora.

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Then there is that class, that has acquired properties all over Zimbabwe and are still staying in the Diaspora, still slogging out long shift hours to what end?

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Why not come back and enjoy the fruits of your toiling? Why have tenants (and at times relatives) enjoy your sweat whilst you brave the snowy graveyard shifts and less than three months of sunshine per year?

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Please send feedback to garikai.mazara@zimpapers.co.zw, Facebook or Twitter @gmazara