There was much excitement in the corridors of power when it became apparent that diaspora remittances into Zimbabwe had surpassed the US$1.4 billion mark in 2021 – virtually meaning that a huge chunk of our country’s economy was being sustained by our relatives and friends who were now living abroad.
Indeed, without this money being sent back home – whether for investment purposes, building and buying properties, or fending for relatives and friends finding the going tough under prevailing economic difficulties – Zimbabwe would have long collapsed as a state, considered the two decades of near-ruin.
In fact, if my memory serves me well, the former governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Gideon Gono once attested to a similar fact – particularly, during the hyperinflationary years of the early 2000s.
Ironically, the government which is now celebrating this billion-dollar windfall, is the same that presided over the 42 years of massive mismanagement and looting, turning a once breadbasket of the region into a shameless basket case – thereby, forcing millions of Zimbabweans, both the highly-skilled and educated, as well as the not-so-learned, into fleeing for greener pastures in other countries.
Yet, instead of being grateful to these men and women (who have had to sacrifice years apart from close family and friends) for literally saving this country from complete ruination and bankruptcy – the regime has only gone a step further in putting in place measures to milk our diasporans for all that they have, without giving anything back.
We have witnessed this with the recently announced so-called “Diaspora Friendly Policy” – which is ostensibly meant to attract Zimbabweans in foreign countries into ploughing back even more money than before, through various programs and initiatives.
As much as we (both the nation’s economy, and ordinary citizens who are struggling to make ends meet) desperately need, and gratefully welcome, all the assistance from our relatives and friends abroad – it should never be acceptable to reduce them to mere cash cows, but should also have their constitutional rights respected, as equal citizens of Zimbabwe.
In celebrating the US$1.4 billion that has been accrued by the country from our diasporans – what is the government doing in ensuring that these same benefactors exercise their right to vote?
Whilst those of us who remained home (and, able to keep our heads above water, largely due to these remittances from those in foreign countries) enjoy our right to participate in regular elections (both as voters and candidates) – what about our kith and kin who are elsewhere?
According to our Constitution [section 67(3)] – every Zimbabwean citizen who is of or over eighteen years of age has the right to vote in all elections and referendums…and to stand for election for public office.
Yet, for as long as our relatives and friends have been in other countries – some for the past twenty years or more – they have never been afforded this most crucial constitutional right, which is the cornerstone of any democracy.
More so, for a country that has just commemorated its 42nd independence anniversary – which was achieved through a protracted liberation struggle, whose main mantra was “one man, one vote” – should the diaspora vote not have been a given?
Surely, in this day and age, should we still have millions of Zimbabweans unable to cast their vote in the country’s elections – thereby, being denied an opportunity to be equal partners in national development with the rest of the population?
Do we not watch in envy, as South Africans, Namibians, Zambians, and so many others stationed all over the world, are provided a chance to cast their votes – either by post, or at their respective countries’ embassies?
However, when it comes to Zimbabwe – there is never a shortage of excuses as to why this can not be done – from logistical complexities, to the inability of senior ruling party officials traveling to Western countries to campaign due to targeted sanctions…a clearly flimsy reason since the US is the only one still with any form of travel restrictions, which interestingly do not cover most of the ruling elite.
Which can only mean one thing – the ruling ZANU PF is not confident of winning elections where those who can not be brainwashed or intimidated fully participate.
Those in the diaspora have access to far more information than the ZBC that most Zimbabweans can only afford to watch.
Those in the diaspora can not be held captive through laughable “empowerment projects” (such as artisanal mining, baking bread using clay ovens, or vending), or food and subsistence farming input handouts, or traditional leaders who are used to threaten villagers, or boreholes in urban areas that have not had any running water for ages.
Zimbabweans in foreign countries desire real meaningful development – which takes our nation to heights of competitiveness comparable to all others in the international community – which, tragically, our current ruling establishment are incapable of achieving.
However, it is time that our relatives and friends in foreign lands demanded their rights to “one man, one vote” – by, refusing to be treated as some cash cows or ATMs (automated teller machines), who are only good for sending money – but, should be respected enough to take part in choosing their own country’s leaders.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org