Zimbabwe Diaspora Policy: A View From A Diasporan

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By Jeffrey Moyo

IT IS reassuring the government has suggested it intends to embark on a consultative process to discuss how the vast diaspora community of Zimbabwe can be harnessed to be part of the social, economic, and political landscape of the country in a more organised and coherent manner.

I think this is but a small step, albeit a necessary one.

For this process to work, it is necessary for the government to address the trust deficit between itself and the wider citizenship at home and abroad. It is my view that there is a pervasive feeling that Zimbabwe works for those who have political affiliation and connections.

Secondly, there is a feeling that Zimbabwe belongs to some, while everyone else is the property of “the owners.” Such a feeling is driven by the immunity of others to due process, while others are subjected to extra-judicial processes at the whim and desire of the supposed owners. Simply put, in Zimbabwe, it seems not all are equal in front of the law.

How then can the unequal ones be expected to entrust political elites and a government that “owns” the country with their hard-earned money? When fairness and the rule of law are served at whim and not on the constitutionality or a prescribed order, it is no surprise that there is a lack of confidence in large sections of the diaspora community.

It is no wonder that people would rather make a home where they feel respected and safer; albeit there is the reality that they will always be considered as foreigners. It is better to be treated and feel like a foreigner in a foreign land than in your own country.

Adding to the alienation is the issue of corruption. Corruption is a corrosive cancer that rips up the foundations of a decent, functional society.  Investment is not immune to this cancer.

In Zimbabwe, at every turn and in every corner, people are expected to grease the hands of officials, simply because they require a service. Every transaction has a hidden cost of corruption.

If corruption is not factored in the transaction itself, it will be felt in the outcomes of the wider economic malaise.

Diaspora investment in and of itself is useless if the turbines of the economy are not turning. Consider an investment in tourism. If the country continues to be an international pariah and there is no upsurge in tourist activity, what will be the function of investment?

If people invest in construction but there are no property buyers or paying tenants to sustain the business, what then will be the function of investment? If people invest in telecommunications and the government at whim shuts down the channels of communication, what then will be the function of investment?

If people invest in the land, and the government imposes restrictive price ceilings on farm produce and there is policy uncertainty, what then will be the function of investment? Simply put, the purpose of investment is to earn returns.

At the present time, the economic conditions in Zimbabwe largely seem unfavourable due to a myriad of reasons, some of which have been/will be briefly alluded to here.

The above is not to say some people have not invested successfully in Zimbabwe. The submission being made is that there is huge potential for diaspora investment to grow exponentially IF social, political, and economic conditions at home improve to inspire the confidence of the vast majority of the Zimbabwe diaspora community.

The call for diaspora investment is a necessary one. However, preceding any drive to lure Zimbabweans to invest in the country, there must be government introspection and reflection on why many Zimbabweans are fearful of investing in their country. The government need not only introspect and reflect, it needs to change course.

Zimbabweans need to be confident that the rule of law applies to all, even the politically connected and politically powerful. Zimbabweans need to be confident that the government is serious about rooting out endemic corruption from the fabric of our society.

Zimbabweans need to be confident that political votes count, and that the losing party will abdicate power and deepen democratic constitutionality.

Zimbabweans need to be confident that the judiciary is independent and fair, that the police are not state-sponsored vigilantes, and that the army is a dutiful protector of the property and citizens of Zimbabwe.

For far too long we have been made to feel like strangers in our country. Visiting Zimbabwe for some of us has been torture. Endless police barricades, solicitation of bribes, a silent two-tier-price system where we are charged more simply because “you look like you come from the diaspora.”

These are real experiences of real Zimbabweans. This feeling of being alien has to be removed. Zimbabwe must feel free and fair, and Zimbabwe must be free and fair.

The government can go wherever and try and woo the diaspora community; however, it must first get right with Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe.

When that is achieved, we Zimbabweans who come for a short time will see and feel the change, and we too may start to have that deep yearning for a home.

In as much as the Zimbabweans in Zimbabwe must be given the first taste of the proverbial Canaan, Zimbabweans across the world must be the first targets of any rapprochement agenda.

The aggressive diplomacy strategy with other nations will not work if Zimbabweans across the world are sidelined.

We, the people of Zimbabwe, need to be absolutely convinced that Zimbabwe is for us and by us. This is the first step to a truly Zimbabwean investment drive. The rest, as they say, will follow.