A Call to Zimbabwe’s Diaspora- Return to the Trenches!

Monday, January 04, 2010

By Rejoice Ngwenya

By Rejoice NgwenyaThere are  close to one million skilled and professional Zimbabweans outside the country.  It is time to welcome  them to contribute effectively to the emergence of their country from the quagmire of development paralysis.  

The Zimbabwe Diaspora Forum has initiated a debate on how Zimbabweans based particularly in South Africa can contribute effectively to the emergence of their country from the quagmire of development paralysis.  Given that there is close to one million skilled and professional Zimbabweans outside the country, such discourse is highly valuable, more so that the democratic half of government controlled by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirayi badly needs these skills.  Robert Mugabe’s fascists dictatorship is squarely responsible for the devastating haemorrhage of Zimbabwe’s critical human capital, thus everything should be done to ensure full restoration of good national governance to reverse this painful trend. My guess is that as long as Mugabe remains in the picture of political control, Tsvangirayi’s call to reason will fall on eardrums stuffed with cement concrete.     

Each and every Zimbabwean at home has been affected by emigration.  Families have been broken, children abandoned and whole villages left derelict. If you stopped anyone in urban streets or at rural shopping centres to enquire about a close relative, one out of every two will tell you the relative is out of Zimbabwe. Just in the United Kingdom, United States and South Africa, I have four blood brothers and sisters, twenty nephews and nieces. If I added close friends to this list of migrants, a Chinese-built MA60 Air Zimbabwe reject would not be sufficient to transport those that I know currently in the Diaspora back home.  And here I am not talking merely house maids and garden boys, but highly skilled acquaintances.  As an example, my twin brother is a fully-qualified journeyman coach builder who is part of the first generation black artisans at the then Rhodesia Railways. Most electric engines now lying abandoned at Dabuka in the Midlands town of Gweru were panelled with his skilled hands. Now, he has turned out to be another highly skilled CCCU medical technician in a sprawling London hospital. Further down the road, my sister is a highly qualified education psychologist, while the one based in Scotland teaches food and nutrition to a bunch of ungrateful school girls.

Further afield in USA, my vazukuru [nephews] are bankers, investment advisors or college lecturers. I also have several dozen friends who either head NGOs, or run departments in large banks in South Africa. Two years ago I had privilege of facilitating an international liberal economics conference in Nairobi. A week before the event I was sent a list of presenters, six of them were university lecturers in South Africa and all were Zimbabweans. They insisted that they would only return home once the political and economic situation assumes an acceptable degree of sanity, in other words, when Mugabe is politically dead and buried.

I have in the past ten months communicated with all these ‘relatives’ about the GNU situation in Zimbabwe. They trust my word, since I am a self-proclaimed Mugabe ‘watcher’ who has bruised knees in the exciting world of political commentary. What I have told them with amazing consistency and conviction is that it is now time for them to come back home and fight ZANU-PF fascism from the trenches.  The rationale behind my argument is basic and simple.

Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF machinery thrives on patronage, fear and intimidation. This is only possible where a society is devoid of an educated middle-class, since poverty reduces self-esteem. The villagers of Matabeleland South, Mashonaland Central, Midlands and Mashonaland West where Mugabe’s repressive political machinery is more pronounced have no choice but to pay homage to the dictator. They are not only vulnerable, but also highly dependent on Mugabe’s poisonous benevolence. So when it is election time, ZANU-PF uses this electoral block to prevent monitoring in order to cheat and claim a ‘win’. Now if professionals in exile were to return and ‘finance’ relatives in such constituencies, this would minimise the dependency syndrome and render Mugabe’s tactics dysfunctional. Ultimately, Mugabe will lose, then Zimbabwe can get back to the trail of reconstruction.

In any case, now that Tsvangirayi controls the sensible half of government, it is possible for the middle income to grow, so that revenue and taxes collected by the State can support emerging democratic institutions.  As the economy grows, more people are employed, rural areas develop and Zimbabweans become more astute in their political choices. ZANU-PF preys on impoverished and weak democratic institutions, thus the more enlightened citizens are the more they are likely to access and create wealth. Returnees will be able to secure well-paying jobs rather than the discomfort in foreign lands. Besides, whoever has won a revolution fought from outside a country?

Which is why my assertion that Finance Minister Tendai Biti’s tax-for-votes argument may be as malnourished as the migrants’ dual-citizenship demand. All Zimbabwean passport holders in any part of the world, as long as they are over eighteen years old, must be allowed to vote. Payment of taxes, as UK-based lawyer Alex Magaisa insists, must not have a bearing on voting rights, but perhaps public office bearing. Zimbabweans in the Diaspora have always been barred from voting because Mugabe assumed they are MDC sympathisers. And what is wrong with sympathising with a democratic party? Mugabe has incessantly offered land and farming inputs to ZANU-PF sympathisers and no one has been able to stop him, so if his policies sent people scurrying out of Zimbabwe, they should vote against him.

But is it rather naive for exiles to demand a right to dual citizenship. Why are they not proud to be Zimbabwean? Can they not learn from the Americans who revere the stars and stripes wherever they may be? Dual citizenship is a sign of lack of confidence in one’s country of origin, so there is no need to participate in that country’s election. Those who argue that they are not ‘comfortable’ to return as long as Mugabe has political power are narrow-minded. Who has the responsibility to remove Mugabe from State House other than themselves? For now, the least they can do is to continue urging their host countries to tighten the blockade against Mugabe and his henchmen.

Rejoice Ngwenya is founder of Zimbabwean think tank COMALISO and an associate of www.AfricanLiberty.org