Zimbabwe Diaspora – a case of fatigue and loss of interest
By Moses Chamboko
For many years, especially in the last fifteen when the Zimbabwean economy took a sharp nosedive owing to ZANU PF’s classic malfeasance coupled with gross ineptitude, Zimbabweans in the diaspora have done their level best in keeping together the bodies and souls of many in the immediate and extended families as well as sending kids to school.
In the process, the ZANU PF dictatorship also benefitted through these inflows particularly during Gideon Gono’s time when our relatives were forced to exchange hard currency for useless money not worth the paper it was printed on. The last type of this useless currency were bearer cheques which Dr Mzee reportedly called burial cheques.
As years went by, more and more people left Zimbabwe in search of greener pastures while others were literally running away from Mugabe and his mad dogs. From journalists, to engineers, accountants, lawyers, nurses, doctors, tradesmen and the unskilled, we saw an exodus of Zimbabweans trying to improve their lives, far from home.
Despite the distance that separates us, in most cases worsened by seas and oceans, the majority of Zimbabweans in the diaspora remained actively involved with and emotionally attached to developments back home. It is not unusual for a Zimbabwean to start their day with internet browsing of latest news back home. Owing to time difference, most in the diaspora know about latest news in Zimbabwe ahead of those back home.
However, slowly, Zimbabweans in the diaspora are beginning to realise that waiting to return home permanently is turning into perpetuity. Socio-political and economic developments in Zimbabwe are getting worse by the day.
The heightening of succession battles in ZANU PF as Mugabe counts his last days (on earth or in office or both), has made the bad situation even worse. Fragmentation and passivity of the opposition adds to the matrix.
There doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of tunnel unless if it’s that of a fast-moving train. The collapse of social service delivery including health and education is not at all an attraction to those in the diaspora.
The failure by authorities to provide clean water and construct decent roads while those who should do so continue to earn obnoxious salaries would be funny if it wasn’t sad. In the past, we used to be comforted by the belief that while ZANU PF had destroyed the economy, the encouraging thing was that our infrastructure was intact.
This was before we knew that little kids could go swimming, surfing or finishing on some of our roads one day, courtesy of massive potholes on what used to be some of the most decent roads in Africa.
At times one really wonders why anybody would aspire to be president or prime minister of a developed country or chief executive of a multinational organisation when it is equally or more rewarding to be a mere town clerk or parastatal board chairman in Zimbabwe for doing virtually nothing.
If you ask many of them what their job description is, they would probably say “driving an expensive car, fully paid for, living in an effluent home, fully paid for, having a maid, a driver and a gardener, fully paid for, enjoying regional and international travel in first class, fully paid for and drinking imported wine and whisky, fully paid for”. Beyond that, there is nothing else and yet some morons still believe and shout that it is sanctions!
The Zimbabwe diaspora has seriously reflected on this madness for some time and is coming to the realisation that it is time to look to the future and forget about the past, to which Zimbabwe, in its current state, now belongs. Some of them feel they have been taken advantage of, both by their extended families as well as institutions in Zimbabwe most notably, the corrupt, clueless and incompetent government.
When some of us hear about Diaspora Policy in the making, we wonder why it has taken anybody three and half decades to realise that a policy for this critical demography was necessary. One of the reasons is that the mindset in Zimbabwe is that the Diaspora only have one function; to remit their hard earnings to Zimbabwe and shut up.
Even some of our own kith and kin, when we try to advise them on different issues including who not to vote for and what not to spend money on, they easily dismiss us with “Vanhu vemuDiaspora hamuzivi zvinoitika kuno – you Diasporans don’t know what’s happening here”. Even those who struggled with junior certificate have suddenly become wiser than King Solomon because they are not in the diaspora!
Sadly and rather paradoxically, whenever they encounter a problem no matter how big or small, the first person they think of is a relative or friend in the diaspora, even a very distant one. They will send you a text message at 3 am and expect you to call them back. You end up footing the bill for a telephone conversation you did not initiate.
As usual, those conversations finish with the person at the other end of the line asking for money to solve this or that problem or to start some kind of a project. They never run out of ideas and don’t listen to what you suggest! You go out of your way and assist, at times knowing they are lying. They often exaggerate things including the price of goods and services.
But when you ask them for a very small favour like checking on your granny or taking some forms to some office, the first thing they expect is compensation, how unthankful!
The government does the same too; send your money but you have no say in what is happening here. Despite the constitution recognising not only dual but multiple citizenship, the ZANU PF government has refused to align relevant legal instruments with the supreme law. In this regard, dual citizenship becomes accessible only to those who can afford to take Tobaiwa Mudede to the constitutional court. The Diaspora is supposed to shut up if they can’t say thank you!
Fatigue and loss of interest is creeping in. Progressively, unless something gives very soon, diaspora remittances are going to drop significantly. Our hardworking brothers and sisters around the world who are earning an honest living have had enough of the madness in Zimbabwe, political and social. For them, it’s probably time to refocus.
In the near future, we are likely to see less and less Zimbabweans around the world visiting home as frequently as they used to do in the past. With kids growing up and marrying from other nationalities other than Zimbabwe, the distance from motherland is not getting shorter.
One would rather fly to Bali, Hawaii or some other place than spend a holiday worrying about water, electricity, roads, corruption and poor services at exorbitant prices in Zimbabwe. Hotel rooms cost almost the same as in Sydney, London or New York and you wonder why.
Zimbabwe needs the Diaspora more than the Diaspora needs Zimbabwe. Those in Zimbabwe can keep their brilliant ideas while those in the diaspora hold onto their hard-earned cash. This is the kind of dichotomy we will soon be faced with. The sooner we realise this, the better.
Moses Chamboko is pro-democracy activist and interim secretary General of Zimbabweans United for Democracy (ZUNDE). You may contact him at [email protected]