By Tafi Mhaka
Zimbabwe experienced massive economic turmoil between 2000 and 2009. Amid extreme uncertainty, an estimated 3-4 million people temporarily settled abroad.
At the time, many migrants believed Zimbabwe’s woes would be resolved within a few years’ time; many dreamed a welcome return to their beautiful motherland was inevitable.
Journey to banana republic rapid, unending
But, approximately 21 years after 14 November 1997, an ill-fated day dubbed Black Friday – a catastrophic day when the Zimbabwe dollar fell 72% against the US Dollar, the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange crashed by 46%, and a sharp economic decline began, the economy is still reeling from decades of gross mismanagement under former President Robert Mugabe and the ruling Zanu-PF party.
As things stand, many foreign -based Zimbabweans might not ever return home, especially when an all-important health sector is mired in a devastating crisis and dystopian economic gloom and doom remains ubiquitous.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has not provided foreign-based citizens with any plausible justification to embark on a permanent trip back home.
The so-called new dispensation Mnangagwa promised after last November’s military coup and again after the contentious July 30 harmonised elections has morphed into nothing short of a crippling disaster reminiscent of the debilitating 2008 economic meltdown.
Will migrants help save Zimbabwe?
Migrant workers contribute almost US$1 billion in remittances to Zimbabwe’s economy yearly. The monies sent back home help to support a largely unemployed generation of frustrated youths and luckless families raised on a daily staple of repression, immense hardship and unending pessimism.
But despite subsidising a dilapidated economy and unintentionally propping up an often inept ruling party, exiled Zimbabweans can’t vote in general and presidential elections from abroad.
Yet, with every waking day that passes, Zimbabwe continues to further descend into an abominable marshland of third world poverty and military-backed chaos, and the fairly reasonable prospect of millions of migrants returning home to a fully functional country diminishes rapidly.
Disenfranchised, under-appreciated and seemingly powerless, how can foreign-based citizens help safeguard a tenuous democracy and help hold the Mnangagwa administration accountable for its daily actions and myriads of inactions?
The Zimbabwean diaspora must organise itself into a powerful lobbying structure. This collective should actively support and finance individuals and organisations that can advance progressive political, economic and humanitarian causes on a just, regular and massive scale.
Human rights and civil rights campaigners such as Pastor Evan Mawarire and Advocate Fadzayi Mahere and local NGOs such as Zimrights, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, and #ThisFlag could all do with both substantial moral and financial support in what has evolved into a protracted, difficult and multifaceted struggle for an authentic and enduring change.
The longer the Zanu-PF party is allowed to take advantage of a financially deprived, physically cowered and understandably distraught public, the harder it will be for Zimbabwe to become an ‘African lion’, or a middle income country by 2030.
Even the new finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, a political novice and former chief economist and vice president at the African Development Bank (AFDB), appears stumped by the enormous task at hand. Ncube has called for the government to accommodate opposition and US demands for political reforms.
Tellingly, the former Oxford professor has to all intents and purposes acknowledged the substantive inadequacy and exorbitant futility of both Mnangagwa’s suspect legitimacy and spurious political reforms quickly, maturely and unreservedly.
The time for change is now
Nobody living abroad can ill-afford to wait until the next election comes around to cry foul about how a plainly incompetent and corrupt leadership has destroyed the country.
Indeed, nobody can ill-afford to abandon the slim and strongly contested prospect of achieving profound transformation in this lifetime to the immoral whims of a long failed politician like Mnangagwa and an illiberal clutch of influential ruling party political actors.
Everyone working in the diaspora must play a part in promoting humanitarian causes, seeking social equality and supporting democracy. An organised, well-resourced formation, comprising ordinary, patriotic citizens, working in unison towards building a rich, equal and progressive society, can wield vast political clout and secure crucial democratic milestones.
Zimbabwe’s devastating economic problems stem mostly from a historical and ongoing political crisis; and the shaky, unpredictable state of an always divided, ever populist, military backed ruling Zanu-PF party is the most formidable stumbling block to establishing real change.
This is the wayward political spirit holding democracy to ransom and forever prolonging economic mayhem. If this malignant political demon is to be exorcised altogether, for the good of all and for all time, the Zimbabwean diaspora must be prepared to fight for a liberal and viable form of democracy on a plethora of constitutional grounds. Everyone must be prepared to help rescue the nation from a potentially violent and irredeemable financial and political meltdown.