via Send me Pounds – Mugabe – The Zimbabwean 30.9.2015
You are squashed between two very large women passengers and trying hard to hold your breath because the man behind you is breathing a halitotic storm against the back of your neck, while shouting into his mobile phone.
‘Nditumire mapondo shamwari!’ Send me Pounds. Familiar phrase we have all heard, whether at Renkini or Mbare.
After being denied funding for ZimAsset by China, Russia and India, President Mugabe’s broke government grows more and more desperate. Their latest attempt is the draft National Diaspora Framework (NDF), a document which will probably share space on Mugabe’s dusty bookshelf with other forgotten documents: Matabeleland Water Project, Chinese Mega deals and ZimAsset. In theory, the NDF will channel Diaspora receipts to the productive sector. Macro-Economic Planning and Investment Minister, Obert Mpofu, made the announcement last Friday.
‘Once the Diaspora policy is in place, the country will be able to give incentives to the Diaspora community, which move I am convinced will result in increased investment inflows,’ Mpofu said.
Why live abroad?
Mugabe is an quite the optimist. Anyone else in his position would be stuck on the question – ‘why are all these people living abroad?’ – but he has looked right past that and seen a fat cash cow waiting to be milked. Something that will not go unnoticed by the Diaspora community is that the implementation will be overseen by none other than the office of the President. Mention ‘President’s office’ to any Zimbabwean and what comes to mind is the frightening image of grim-faced men in dark glasses, each with budging holster at the armpit.
During the mass exodus of Zimbabweans, circa 2000, Mugabe, intending to halt the mass departure, gave that timeless speech which is summarised in two words, ‘muchienda kunaani?’ To whom are you running? he mockingly enquired of the multitudes that fled poor governance, joblessness and political persecution.
In a desperate bid to stop the stampede to Beitbridge, Plumtree and Harare International Airport, Mugabe and his cohorts at Makombe Building made the process of passport application as difficult as possible. But the fires that burnt outside the passport office where desperate Zimbabweans slept in queues told the heart-rending story of people determined to escape the chaos.
Brutality and persecution
Even as far away as England, Mugabe’s secret service continued to issue threats of violence to those who dared to speak openly against the government. Often, on social media, we see the cautionary phrase, ‘unoda kuuraisa ana ambuya kumusha?’ (Do not invite trouble for the family back home). It will take more than a document – paper and ink – to fan away the thick miasma of mistrust between the Diaspora and Mugabe’s penurious government.
During the mad decade of hyper-inflation, government looted NGO foreign currency accounts, after its own reserves dried up. It was illegal to hold foreign currency, at one point. It is crazy to think that having a US$100 note in your pocket invited the same consequence as drug possession. Those found holding forex – some of it from these same Diaspora relatives – were arrested and had their money confiscated.
Fears of fraud
The ostensible reason behind the NDF is to harness resources for national development. But history suggests that this money may well end up financing the printing of Mugabe’s face on the backs of Zanu (PF)’s 2018 campaign T shirts. There is nothing to stop Bob and Grace from using the hard-earned cash of Zimbabweans towards next year’s million dollar birthday celebrations, or a holiday in Hong Kong, while the parents of the children stuck in exile live in abject poverty back home.
But beyond the fear of fraud, those in the Diaspora will most likely be annoyed at their exclusion from all democratic processes. Despite sending home a total $1,8 billion in 2014 (15% of the country’s GDP) the Diaspora community has no say in choosing government. Anybody who left the country is obviously not fond of Mugabe.
Three million Zimbabwean ‘green bomber’ passports inside cupboards in America, Australia, Britain, Canada, China and South Africa means three million automatic un-campaigned-for votes to the opposition. Consequently, Mugabe has never allowed postal votes in elections. Surely, if these people do not have a voice in politics, they should not be expected to pay for dinner.
Despite these fresh attempts to reach out to the Diaspora for assistance, Mugabe’s government seems to be in denial about the numbers. State media attempts to massage the Zimbabwean refugee crisis by reporting the total in exile as ‘between 500,000 and 3,000,000,’ which is as ludicrous as saying ‘my height is between four and six feet.’
The Diaspora responds
An online survey carried out by The Zimbabwean indicates that the grovelling Mpofu will need a very thick pair of kneepads because it might be a long wait before exiled Zimbabweans are convinced:
‘There is nothing that is going to convince me to put money into a Ponzi scheme run by a Zanu (PF) government. They have managed to run down everything from Ziscosteel to Zupco. What makes me think they would run anything else differently?’ – Joshua Mataire – Academic and IT expert (UK)
‘Are they just interested in the Diaspora for their economic value? Will the same Diaspora have their voting rights respected?’ – Tinashe Mushakavanhu – Journalist
‘It’s very simple; if you value the Diaspora enough to want (and value) their money then you should ensure enough that they can participate in the decision making by having the vote. Nothing about me without me is the principle.’ – John Stewart
‘No sensible person is going to let his/her money be handled by Minister Obert Mpofu. The Diaspora population is not the new Chiadzwa-Marange diamond fields.’ – Bvumavaranda – journalist, chemist, businessman.
‘Remittances right now feeding families who can’t sustain themselves because of economic crisis. Sort economy.’ – Sure Kamhunga – PR Consultant, (South Africa)
‘I can’t even begin to comment on this. Vanoita ngavamboita (those who want to do it can go ahead) and lets see how that goes.’ – Baynham Goredema – Graphic designer (South Africa)
‘Obert really has a nose for sniffing out money’ – Maria – (UK)
Wrong man for the job
Mugabe has chosen the wrong caller ID for his long-distance phone call to the Diaspora. If I am slogging away in Tesco or Pick N Pay, so I can put food in my mother’s mouth, the last person I want to hear asking me for money – tipeiwo mari, siyayadinga imali – is Obert Mpofu. After Mpofu’s acquisition of Allied Banking Group, former Zanu (PF) Mashonaland West Chairman, Temba Mliswa, posed the still unanswered question, where did you get all that cash?
‘There is no way someone can buy a bank in this economic environment. This is the very same money that is being used to divide the people because it is dirty money. Dirty money can always be used for ulterior motives,’ Mliswa said.
Not long after Mliswa’s inquisition, Mpofu’s bank collapsed. Will Zimbabweans entrust their money to a corrupt government whose moronic policies have driven them into a cold, uncomfortable and often violent exile? – Till next week, my pen is capped. Jerà Twitter @JeraZW