Diaspora dilemma: to return or to stay put

via Diaspora dilemma: to return or to stay put by Perry Munzwembiri for NewZimbabwe 07/10/2013

ZIMBABWE has, over the years, witnessed a significant outflow of her citizens in one of the effects of the so called ‘lost decade’ where locals migrated abroad in droves searching for greener pastures and now constitute a sizeable Zimbabwean Diaspora community scattered around the globe.  It would be remiss to fault the thousands who left the country at a time when the country was staring down the barrel, hamstrung by hyperinflation and chronic unemployment; the allure of brighter prospects offered by distant lands was simply irresistible to close the eyes to.

The negative upshots this massive drain of skilled human capital has had on the economy have been all too apparent with the country shorn of the expertise of those who could have contributed to the progress of the nation. This argument has steadily gained traction over the years, with the general consensus being that had the Diaspora community been around, they would have positively applied themselves to build a better economy.

Various people have been adding their voices to the ever increasing call for the Diaspora community to return back home.  The question however is, to what exactly should the Zimbabwe Diaspora community come back to? At first glance, it may sound unpatriotic to make an assertion of that kind. However, a critical introspection of where we are as a nation would seem to point to the crude fact that nothing has really changed.

Some would argue that the fact that nothing has changed is the very reason the thousands of Zimbabweans living abroad should make the journey back to their motherland. Having been exposed to the developed world, they would be in good stead to help develop the country. Indeed the skills and expertise they have accrued during their stay in foreign developed lands would be essential for the country`s advancement. Be that as it may, Zimbabwe`s readiness to assimilate the many who left the country is a matter of debate. However unpalatable it may be to some, it is my view that the country is not at present equipped to integrate returning citizens.

When people could not find gainful employment in their homeland regardless of their qualifications and training there was no inducement for their continued stay in Zimbabwe. After all, the country`s motto is ‘Unity, Freedom, Work’ but the government had dismally failed to provide meaningful employment for its people. With no means to earn a living in the face of a sky-rocketing cost of living, most resorted to going abroad to earn a living.

Years later, though the economic environment has changed somewhat, jobs are still scarce. The government pegs the unemployment rate at around 60% though that figure must be taken with a block of salt if one is to look at reality on the ground. If the Zimbabwe Diaspora were to return, it is not immediately foreseeable how they would all be seamlessly integrated into the productive workforce. All this seems to indicate that there is no room for the Diaspora community, at least from an employment perspective.

It is heart-rending to note that as a country, basic amenities are still not being covered sufficiently with Zimbabweans still being subjected to the vagaries of erratic utility supplies. At a time when the country needs its industry to be functional, it is hard to see how this can be achieved under the present circumstances. Electricity supply cuts and water shortages are the order of the day and this heavily prejudices the economy with the cost of doing business sharply increased as a result. Even when we are calling for Zimbabweans to come back home and be entrepreneurial, the current situation is untenable and, at best, does not encourage local enterprise to flourish.

Closely tied to the current inert industrial base is the issue of budgetary deficits the country has been running. For a long time, Zimbabwe has been importing more goods than it has been exporting. Remittances by the nationals living abroad have for long been sustaining the budgetary deficit incurred as a result of the country importing more than it has been exporting.

The World Bank notes that in most developing countries, remittances are the second largest financial inflow, far exceeding international aid. If Zimbabwe were to not obtain these financial inflows of money which have been augmenting national income, the effects on the country`s Balance of Payments would be dire. So to the extent that the country`s financial system is reliant on Diaspora remittances, it would be a huge disservice to the nation if the Zimbabweans abroad would come back home.

Again it would be a fallacy to deny that the en masse migration of Zimbabweans abroad has negatively impacted families, society and ultimately the whole country. In an ideal world, it would have been preferable to have all our citizens’ hands on deck; working to build the country. However, the current state of affairs, in my opinion, does little to lure back those who left the country at the peak of its economic meltdown. At present therefore, it would be a ‘hard sell’ to convince the Zimbabwe Diaspora community to settle back home.



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    maisokwazo 11 years ago

    Return? Return to where to the clasps of the octageneric mad dog no not not unless the west becomes the east and the east becomes the west.Those that are envisaging going back are either the octogeneric puppets who were under the master,s pay and have symphonied the hand that fed them.The situation in Zimbabwe right now is reprehensible, the climate threatening and unpromising and susceptible and very retrogressive and not conducive to the rule of law as it is still jungle law down there.

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    Macon Pane 11 years ago

    Oh yeah… the rush is on.

    My heart weeps for them. They love their country… they love the families and friends they left in Zim… but, they’re educated, intelligent, insightful, and resourceful… and they know that, right now, there’s no life for them in ZANUPF’s Zimbabwe.

    It’s almost humorous that ZANUPF thinks those of the diaspora can be conned into returning. ZANUPF seems to have forgotten that the diaspora was smart enough to leave when they did, and from a distance have seen the lies and corruption continue… and see nothing to indicate that will change.

    Once there’s a change of leadership that will allow foreign investors to once again have confidence in Zim, then they will return in droves… and their beloved country will blossom and flourish with a hope for the future, and the future of their children… and Zimbabwe will become the flower it was intended to be.

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    Jrr56 11 years ago

    It is unfortunate, those in the diaspora will be in no rush to return, they will wait to see how everything turns out with Mugabe’s promises and if they turn sour, stay away. Who returns to 80% unemployment, imagine IF 3-4 MILLION people came back, where to live, work, medical. The list goes on. Plus the government does not want them back.

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    Africanson 11 years ago

    There is no cohesion in the country. Progressive voices are very few. The ruling party is talking intetions to impove the country and the opposition is in high gear preaching hopelessness. No room is left for progress. We can not compare ourselves to other developing nationals like Kenyeans. We saw Raila Odinga standing side by side by Uhuru Kenyata talking positively about their country even though Odinga felt cheated in the elections. eventually he embraced the outcome for the sake of his country. He is going to make it one day because he is very positive and progressive in outlook. The same can not be said with zimbabweans. we go all out to decampaign our on country. The signal that gets to our minds is that Zimbabwe has no future hence coming back gets some of us scared because we think about a lot of things. Education for our kids, university sponsorship, hamony in the country etc

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    Dzenyika 11 years ago

    I left as a 19 year old – I’m 31 now, with a very valuable Financial Services qualification, and would go back home tomorrow if there were opportunities to practise in the industry or as an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, very few opportunities exist (with the few that come up reserved for well connected people).

    It’s hard being asked “were are you are originally from” every time you start a conversation. I long to say “Rusape”! We own their houses and drive their expensive cars, but we will always be foreigners in their country. We are welcomed because we boost their economies, but they’d rather we go back once our usefulness comes to an end.

    I hope to come back home for good one day.

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    Chirambasukwa 11 years ago

    I am one of those Diasporans at the crossroads. I left Zimbabwe in 2000 mainly because of the children. I sacrificed everything so they could have peace of mind and CHOICES in education, career opportunities etc. I could have stayed if it was not for my children who thank God are all adults now and doing well. Life is all about choices; I chose my children’s future and perhaps one day they will be motivated to go back to Zim and help ressucitate the economy. But not until evil and insensitive men and women who commit atrocities under the name ZANU PF are all returned to dust. Shame on you for bringing our country to its knees and continuing being stupid and a laughing stock of the world. I am ashamed to be called a Zimbabwean all because of you few evil citizens. And lest you forget, we in the Diaspora keep your ruthless regime afloat through remittances. May God be the judge and punish you in the end.

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    Macon Pane 11 years ago

    It’s not about “voices” or opinion or perception… it’s all about facts… pure, undeniable, cold hard facts.

    ZANUPF is at the helm. Not only does their history speak for itself, but their continued mismanagement, corruption, and ignorance of how successful business, and countries, operate proves their leadership has learned nothing… except where the purse strings are to fill their pockets.

    They attempt to spin or bury those facts to deflect the blame and deny culpability, but evidence of blatant corruption and gross mismanagement is all too clear. In some cases, the attempts at coverups appear to be designed by adolescents. It’d rival those silly comedy shows… if it weren’t destroying the lives of millions, and sinking Zimbabwe.

    Who, in their right mind would invest money in that… and who of the diaspora would return to this shell of a country, and invest their life and livelihood, when there are no prospects for change. It’s just not a viable option… not until changes come.

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    bam bam 11 years ago

    The police at the moment are just arresting everybody for anything just trumping up charges even if they are not true taking poeple and throwing them in the cells to extort money and bribes to let people go once they have been bribed with hundreds of dollars and they are keeping people in the cells for some days before they can even make a phone call for their relatives to rescue them it is a police state and zanu pf are the police and for that reason im out

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    Zeezee 11 years ago

    Come back to what?

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    Dharma Appavoo 10 years ago

    Breathes there a Zimbabwean with a soul so dead that never to himself had said: “This is my own, my native land ?”

    Sincerely patriotic Zimbabweans have good reasons to be fearful of the future.
    Judging from the correspondence that I receive, there are very many Anti-Mugabe exiles in the Diaspora.
    They do not hesitate to blurt out their bitterness and their impatience to dismantle Mogabe’s Zimbabwe.

    Furthermore the hoardes of embittered individuals who constituted the erstwhile “White Farmers of Rhodesia” are still very much alive. And they are “chomping at the bit” to mobilise the enemies of Mogabe as soon as he is relinquishes his grasp on the helm.
    He has enemies in his country as well as diasporic Trailors.
    And by the tone of the letters that I have received, there will be a rapid obscuration of his great triumphs.
    The nation will be overwhelmed by Compassion Fatigue and Gratitude Depletion”.
    I dread an outbreak of Violence based upon Personal Envy
    which will not rectify any political errors.
    The blood-letting will be expedited and facilitated by those embittered White Farmers who are now waiting in the side lines for Mogabe’s regime to fail.
    They are mindful of the fact that the fate of Zimbabwe will be determined by events that follow Atrition.
    And those “events” can be manipulated by “Bible Thumpers” and Corrupt Entrepeneurs.

    The future of the Country reside within the current Upper Echelons…….such as the First Family and the Current Leaders.

    I re-iterate the laudatory remarks about Robert Mogabe as Greatest Patriot, but such accolades cannot be expected to yield competence in the Team that takes over the reigns of Power after he is replaced.

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    Mai Chirambakusakara 10 years ago

    There is NO way my kids and I are going back to Zimbabawe on a permanent basi. For what? I was in Zim 2 years ago and NOTHING has changed since I left in 1999. Every time I go to Zimbabwe, expecting to see a change, there is NO change. My heart bleeds for the suffering masses I saw when I went home. I thanked God as I boarded my flight out of Zimbabwe, when my holiday as over. I thanked Him for giving me the brain and financial resources that enabled me to leave Zimbabwe in the first place. I prayed for all the families and friends I was leaving behind……Cry the beloved country indeed.