Mugabe ‘unpopular’ in diaspora

Ngoni Chanakira

ZIMBABWEANS living abroad say before they can channel funds to their motherland President Robert Mugabe must quit and a new government takes over.



, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>This emerged in an informal survey of senior businesspersons conducted by leading bankers on business opinions and problems in Zimbabwe as well as how to attract foreign currency from those in the diaspora.

The survey, known as “The market barometer – Snap survey of issues affecting business”, was distributed to business executives including Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono, at a foreign currency conference in Harare on Tuesday last week.

Economic commentator and consultant Eric Bloch is in charge of the RBZ team set up to harness foreign currency from locals in the diaspora.

Despite the negative political sentiments however, in just two days last week, US$1,7 million had gone into the RBZ coffers from Zimbabweans abroad.

Bloch says although numbers could not be established with absolute authority, on the basis of diverse and informed sources, it was established that there are approximately 3,4 million Zimbabweans in the diaspora for various reasons.

He said of these 1,1 million are in the United Kingdom, 1,2 million in South Africa, 450 000 in southern African countries, 200 000 in the United States and Canada, 300 000 in mainland Europe and 150 000 in Australia and New Zealand.

Human Resources (Pvt) Ltd chairman David Harrison, whose company carries out research for top companies and government, says Zimbabwe has already lost close to 60% of its accountants to the diaspora.

He said the reasons varied from low remuneration, job dissatisfaction, failure to command high standards of living in Zimbabwe and political uncertainty.

Departing from the written presentation, Stanbic Bank of Zimbabwe Ltd (Stanbic) head of the Treasury department Weston Makwara, said Zimbabweans living abroad regularly asked when President Mugabe will go.

President Mugabe says he won the last election and therefore is “democratically” allowed to see his term of office through. The term ends in 2008 but speculation is rife that he could step down earlier.

Makwara said when compiling the data it was also discovered that Zimbabweans living abroad were generally unhappy with the present government and its policies and most of them had left the country because they were being frustrated in their efforts to contribute positively to the country’s success.

The locals abroad said they felt even more isolated after being refused the vote in parliamentary and presidential elections.

Those who have departed for the diaspora include doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants and commercial farmers.

Followed up on the issue Bloch said there were a few “rabble rousers” in the diaspora who “spoke louder than everybody else”.

“We have just received US$1,7 million from serious Zimbabweans living in the diaspora and the money is coming in ever since we began tapping it from them,” Bloch told businessdigest in an interview.

“Some of those individuals making those statements either had failed in Zimbabwe, or are just rabble rousers trying to throw a spanner into the works of our programme. I would not take those sentiments seriously and representing the majority of those in the diaspora.”

Makwara said the survey’s key conclusions were that industry needed to take advantage of the RBZ’s open door policy to submit contributions to help the governor.

“They need to work together, not so much being seen together, but mutually supporting each other,” he said. “Free enterprise needs to continue to have free rein and to flourish.”

According to the survey, issues that affected business in Zimbabwe in 2003 prior to Gono’s monetary policy statement included runaway inflation, inaccessibility of foreign currency, rising and ultimately very high interest rates, and cost containment challenges. He said any set of financial statements was witness to this.

Makwara said current issues were that there was a very predictable way of allocating foreign currency but not enough available.He said the survey had discovered that interest rates seemed stable allowing some semblance of planning while the extension of productive sector validity had been hailed.

“We need the demand, goods are there but there is no demand,” he said.

He said market perception about Zimbabwe were factors such as is inflation now under control vis money supply issues and the impact this would have on the wage bill.

Zimbabwe’s month-on-month inflation that averaged around 18% last year, and reached a peak of 33% in November, slowed down to 13,7% in January, 6% in February and 5,9% in March.

The country’s year-on-year inflation, according to the RBZ, has declined from a high of 622% in January this year to the current 583%. However prices of basic commodities such as bread, sugar and milk continue to soar. So have those for electricity, water and fuel.

Makwara said investors also querried would the exchange rate be managed in relation to major trade partners’ figures and the projected impact this would have on inputs, as well as the fact that in the absence of donor support would Zimbabwe be able to have a stable exchange rate?

He said the survey had also raised issues such as could dampened local demand coupled with the auction rate drive exports and bring in much-needed foreign currency, as well as were the diaspora initiatives a step in the right direction?

He said investors were worried about the tourism industry and declining agriculture figures.

“No matter what may be one’s political perspective, almost all who live in Zimbabwe and a very great number of people outside this country, do not wish the already gravely devastated, deeply distressed economy to be totally destroyed,” Bloch said.

“They may wish for major political changes, as I very much do, but they do not wish to achieve it by intensifying poverty, misery, malnutrition, ill health and death for millions and millions of innocent people, and for children, the aged, the infirm and the disabled, in particular. Moreover, they wish that when the eventual political changes occur, which I firmly believe will happen, there should still be an economic foundation and framework – no matter how fragile – on which to rebuild and carry this country forward to the prosperity and well-being that it greatly needs and deserves.”

He said if only 10% of Zimbabweans abroad avail themselves of the new structures, to an extent of as little as US$100 a month, the country would access US$34 million monthly.

“That alone would suffice to meet all Zimbabwe’s fuel importation costs,” Bloch said.

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