BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
ZIMBABWE’s Foreign Affairs ministry claims it has begun a process of documenting the number of fellow citizens residing in foreign lands.
There is no exact number of Zimbabweans in foreign lands as many have been fleeing the country since 2000, and before as economic and political refugees.
The Zimbabwe diaspora is spread out mainly in neighbouring South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Australia and other countries.
South Africa is estimated to have the bulk of Zimbabwe’s diaspora community, with some claims putting the unofficial figure at nearly three million.
Foreign Affairs deputy minister David Musabayana on Wednesday said his ministry had no exact record of the number of fellow citizens in foreign lands as he revealed that government had started the documentation process.
“Yes, we have a lot of Zimbabweans in South Africa,” Musabayana told parliamentarians.
“What we have done as a ministry is we are working on a diaspora policy. That diaspora policy also involves the registration and putting together and integration of all the organisations and representations of Zimbabweans living abroad.”
Musabayana was responding to Harare North MP Norman Markham, who asked whether the ministry had recorded any deaths of Zimbabweans during the recent violent unrest accompanied by looting that hit South Africa.
Markham also wanted to know “how up-to-date” was the ministry’s register on the number of Zimbabweans living in South Africa.
“In that endeavour, we will be able to come up with the exact record or records of Zimbabweans living abroad. What we have also done with this diaspora initiative is, we are interacting with diasporans so that they know about the consular services that we provide and all our missions in the host countries,” Musabayana added.
“In that process, if there is any challenge that they have in the host country or the country that they are staying in, they will be able to contact us and we will be able to assist them. That is how far we have gone.”
There are also a sizeable number of undocumented Zimbabweans in South Africa as many cross the border illegally in search of better living conditions.
Diaspora remittances are also an important source of foreign currency for the country.
In 2020, diaspora remittances between January and September were put at US$657,7 million, according to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.