via Govt fails to tickle Zim migrants | The Zimbabwean 18 June 2014 by Tawanda Majoni
Millions of Zimbabweans living abroad are questioning the rationale of returning to a country still in crisis and without a clear policy to engage them.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said recently that government was in the process of establishing strategies to ensure the return of the diasporans who would contribute to the economy through their skills and knowledge.
“These guys (Zimbabwean migrants) now constitute a critical strategic population with experience… and resources. The most important experience they have is the knowledge advantage and it’s rooted in the education they got here,” Moyo said.
But efforts to lure back the diasporans are bearing no fruit, as hundreds continue to migrate every month, especially to neighbouring countries, to escape rising unemployment, worsening poverty and an uncertain future.
Gabriel Shumba, a lawyer and head of the South Africa-based Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF), described government’s overture as premature.
“Those calls (for diasporans’ return) are unfortunately ill-timed because the government has not yet addressed the fundamentals that caused us to leave the country and continue to do so in big numbers,” Shumba told The Zimbabwean.
He accused government of continued persecution of human rights defenders, a trend he said scared away Zimbabweans living abroad.
A troubled economy, mirrored by a broke government, rising unemployment, struggling industries and a prevalent poverty, is keeping the migrants away.
“Even more tragic is the state of the economy and the unavailability of jobs. How does the government intend to remunerate the Diaspora if it can’t pay the shrinking civil service inside the country?” queried Shumba.
“Investment is also threatened by self-serving but ignorant rhetoric. In such a cauldron of confusion and lack of consistency, it is hard to imagine the diaspora, which is used to 24/7 electricity, clean water, good schools etc, being enticed to go back,” added Shumba.
There is need to craft political and economic policies that inspire skilled Zimbabweans to return, he said and, “if they ask us, we can tell them how it can be done”.
Chofamba Sithole, a journalist and international relations experts who is currently involved in advocacy for engagement between diasporans and the government from his base in the UK, said nothing concrete had been done to help facilitate the return of Zimbabweans in the diaspora.
“So far there have only been public statements by politicians, but they are welcome statements because until now, the government had never addressed the diaspora question,” he said.
He accused the private sector of paying lip service to skills and financial resources that diasporans can offer, saying it was yet to realise the importance of Zimbabwean migrants as a market for its products and services. But he noted that in recent months, “a few leading companies have begun to make overtures towards the diaspora, and that is encouraging.”
Sithole urged government to ensure a secure environment for diaspora returnees by promoting rule of law and providing basic services, utilities and infrastructure, adding that there must be economic stability.
The Zanu (PF) government has over the years viewed diasporans with suspicion and consistently denied them the right to vote.