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Zimbabwean International Migration story distorted -UNECA

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By Anna Chibamu

THE Zimbabwean international migration story has been misconstrued and criminalised, a United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) official in Addis Ababa has said.

Commenting on the 2022 Population and Housing Census preliminary migration results announced by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstats) on Tuesday, Uneca Chief of Demographic and Social Statistics William Muhwava said it was sad the media’s narrative on the migration issue about Zimbabwe lacked science and factual data.

This was after Zimstats Director General Taguma Mahonde’s results on migration had indicated Zimbabwe had just less than a million emigrants internationally.

Mahonde told journalists that about 909 914 people had migrated abroad since 1980 with the highest number of emigrants reported between 2020 and 2021.

South Africa was the major country of residence accounting for 85% (773 246) of the emigrants, followed by Botswana and the United Kingdoms which had 5% (47 928) and 3% (23 166) respectively.

The Zimstats results according to Muhwava dispelled the usual media reportage on emigrants ranging from 2 million to 4.5 million , many of whom were said to be in South Africa (SA).

However, SA’s 2016 statistics say the country has 574 047 Zimbabwean born nationals and the UK Office for National Statistics says it has 122 000 Zimbabwean born nationals.

“Zimbabwean migration story has been written by others. The story has not been written properly. Unfortunately, our perspectives on migration have been set on television screens and possibly read in newspapers. The media has shaped the narrative in a way that lacks science or data.

“It is sad that migration has been criminalised,” Muhwava said.

He added, “Our own estimate is that regular migration constitutes more than 90% of movements in SA. So it means that small bits of movements seen going under the fence is not a reality. We need to tell our story accurately using numbers,” said Muhwava.

The UN official bemoaned the reportage as Zimbabwe migration had been portrayed as an uncontrollable crisis.

“That is not true. Migration is a natural human phenomenon. If you think about it, everybody needs to move. Who wants to be stuck in a place.

Everybody needs to move in their lifetime. They need to get economic opportunities and so on.

“This has led to spread narratives focusing on Zimbabweans being a predominant migratory nation in Southern Africa. This is not true again.

We are equally migratory compared to any other country in the region.

He said, one thing not being said by the media was the number of people who are in-migrants to Zimbabwe.

“If you balance the two, we are receiving and we are sending out. We are not just a sending out nation.

“The migration issue has been handled through emotions rather than evidence based responses. Zimbabweans outside are being looked at in an emotional way and we now tend to respond to it in emotions yet this is something very noble. There is a hidden story about the Zimbabwean migration that people do not tell,” he stated.

He told the media that Zimbabwe was not the highly migratory part.

“Migration is a very necessary human development issue. Labour should flow where it is required. Zimbabwean migration is intra-Africa and we need to promote orderly circulation of skilled Iabour. There is a need for proper engagement between Zimbabwe and its neighbours on promotion of orderly migration.”