via Diaspora most viable exports – DailyNews Live 22 July 2014 by Conrad Nyamutata
HARARE – Last week, both President Robert Mugabe and his deputy Joice Mujuru addressed the issue of Diasporans, the former, chiding them for leaving their own country, and the latter imploring them to return and help “rebuild” Zimbabwe.
Mugabe sounded aggrieved that the Zimbabwean migrants had been accepted in their present domiciles as running away from his “evil regime”.
Unless Mugabe is completely out of touch, he would know that his Zanu PF supporters committed some horrific acts with impunity in years gone by. Evidence abounds — from the Chiminyas to the Ndiras; it is all there.
Mugabe cannot possibly compare the environment his regime has created to most of the Diasporans’ present domiciles.
Here, people are arrested for the most innocuous statements on allegations of demeaning him.
Now, take where the Diasporans live. They barely encounter political violence. Leaders have been the subject of all sorts of attacks.
Last year, British comedian Russell Brand described Prime Minister David Cameron as “filthy, dirty, posh…” followed by an unprintable word. Most recently, Piers Morgan described Cameron as “a self-serving, soulless weasel”.
Both men walk the streets free. In Zimbabwe, the two would be in a filthy, dirty and not-so-posh slammer.
President Barack Obama has also been rudely interrupted during speeches, and at times, described in the most derogatory of terms. Some leaders are even been pelted with eggs.
These are not perfect societies. But what Diasporans have now learnt is that presidents or prime ministers are not gods; they are human beings who, owing to expectations vested in them, invite public anger expressed in harmless ways ever so often.
Apologists will, of course, point to cultural asymmetries. But a culture that creates demigods in humans, does not accept the reality of harmless anger or, worse still, accepts the murder of its own with impunity is most despicable.
Mugabe is right; not every Diasporan suffered persecution. Some left for economic reasons.
But why should we be obsessed about migrants who left Zimbabwe 10 or so years ago or on the reasons they left?
The only thing to do now is to accept the reality of a Zimbabwean Diaspora.
Politicians like Mujuru should not be exhorting the Diasporans to return and “rebuild” Zimbabwe either.
Around the time Mugabe was fulminating over the migrants, it was reported by State media that these Zimbabweans in the
Diaspora remitted $1,4 billion in the past two years; the figure could even be higher if non-formal remittances were included.
It turns out then that while Mugabe, to borrow American colloquialism, “disses” migrants, these migrants have, in fact, become Zimbabwe’s most viable exports over the years, outperforming even diamonds.
In 2012, Zimbabwe earned $684,5 million from the stones.
On the other hand, statistics from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe indicate that in 2012, total remittances from the Diaspora, including those of industrial organisations, amounted to $2,1 billion, while in 2013 remittances totalled $1,8 billion.
Compare that to total traditional exports, probably including the diamonds, of $1,546 billion the same year.
Diasporans are doing far more in “rebuilding” the country from their current domiciles than they would in employment-less Zimbabwe.
It is probably Zimbabwe, or to be specific Zanu PF, that routinely “disses” its Diaspora. Other countries respect and recognise the importance of their citizens living abroad and are finding ways of tapping into the Diasporans.
Research by a Hong Kong-based Ghanaian academic Adams Bodomo showed that Africans living outside the continent send more money home to their families than is sent by traditional Western aid donors in the form of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
For instance, in 2010, the African Diaspora remitted $51,8 billion compared to $43 billion in ODA to Africa, according to World Bank figures.
At $1,4 billion, the Zimbabwean Diaspora is not doing too badly, is it?
Zimbabwe, in particular Zanu PF, would do well, first, to accept and respect the Diaspora, and secondly, find ways of tapping into it productively than take every opportunity to call them back or hurl abuse at them.