Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor—
Zimbabweans in the Diaspora contribute to development and keenly follow events back home hence it is high time that they got political representation, a senior Government official has said.
Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry Walter Mzembi, who has been in the United Kingdom for the past week as part of a whirlwind campaign for his United Nations World Tourism Organisation secretary-general post’s bid, met Zimbabwean expatriates, UK officials and addressed the influential thinktank, Chatham House.
He told The Herald his main discussions revolved around political conditions in the country, succession issues, business environment and the bond notes debate. And there emerged the urgent need for political representation from party, legislative to diplomatic levels, he pointed out.
“The Zimbabwe Diaspora is believed to be 3 to 4 million spread all over the world, but with the highest concentrations in South Africa, UK and US, representing 20 to 25 percent of our population,” he said.
“There is a sense of political ex-communication, which has disconnected them. Diasporans aspire for political representation and rights, and a good start as we go to the Zanu-PF Conference in Masvingo, is to look a bit more critically and analytically at this. How do we competitively incentivise their politics, the same way we do at home, creation of provinces, central committee nominations, etc?
“In the Legislature, maybe start off with non-constituency representation, one each, or more for those structures with high concentrations. They will not only get locked into our agenda more intimately but enhance our debates in Parliament.
“France has or used to have Francophone countries representation in its Parliament, and it was a major loyalties incentive for its former colonies. We look at ours in reverse, and this as new thinking will yield unprecedented political results,” he said.
Minister Mzembi explained that at Government level, there was a directorate now under the Ministry of Macroeconomic Planning, which focused on Diaspora investment but this had shown to be inadequate where there is also a compelling competing market.
He said the ruling party would seek to give external structures due regard.
“Zanu-PF understands their role right from the liberation struggle and its external branches and their capacity to mobilise materially and financially and representation in interests, but there was a break presumably substituted by diplomatic representation by a party that was virtually alone in the political marketplace and had insignificant numbers of our people abroad as many had returned home after Independence.
“The situation has dramatically changed over the years. Not only do we have significant numbers out of Zimbabwe, it may actually be the middle class that we are missing home which is in orbit, learned, experienced citizens in some cases quite entrepreneurial and exposed. They follow events at home very intimately, sometimes acrimoniously judging by some of their postings on social media,” he said.
Zimbabwe has a significant number of nationals abroad and there have been growing calls for the inclusion of Diasporans in key national issues and programmes, including the emotive issue of the right to vote in national selections.