Zimbabwe Diasporans Destiny Self-determined

ZIMBABWEANS in the diaspora, particularly in neighbouring South Africa, are toying with a plethora of opportunities that could bring an end to the struggles of many nationals battling to survive in Zimbabwe.

It has been difficult to appeal to the emotions of Zimbabweans in the diaspora. Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono tried to appease Zimbabweans through the Homelink project but came out with lukewarm results.

This is because Zimbabweans in the diaspora simply do not trust each other, are suspicious of each other, are jealous of each other, are envious of each other and thus have no culture of collaboration.

A curable malady has ravaged many diasporans who focus selfishly on immediate individual benefits.

Whatever happened to teamwork? Whatever happened to unity of purpose or to progressive development? Never before has the adage “divided we fall” been so manifest as it presently is among cynical Zimbabweans.

Even in the midst of xenophobic attacks earlier this year the diasporans failed to come together to assist the affected, instead looking to the South African public and NGOs to come to their aid. Golf games and pretentiousness continued in the midst of this tragedy.

Typical diasporans are divided into groups of “pure migrants”, those people who in the eighties came from the West of the country and went on to work after a couple of years in Botswana and later migrated to South Africa or Bantustans.

This group has no emotional attachment whatsoever to Zimbabwe. Then you have those who migrated prior to 1994, many of who have become citizens. This group has some modicum of interest in what happens in Zimbabwe.

The third group is those transferred as professionals to South Africa, but lately opportunities for this group have fizzled away due to black economic empowerment programmes for which they do not qualify. This group tends to be residents and citizens.

Their attachment to Zimbabwe is ambivalent at best, quick to dissociate themselves from Zimbabwe and criticise it.

The last group consists of those on various work permits, recent immigrants who tend to be professionals and small business owners (traders). They have a significant attachment to Zimbabwe but are suspicious of any organisation which they quickly label as a Zanu PF agent.

These are a very politically charged lot.

In this bleak and bleary system of things for the Zimbabweans, a small group of Zimbabweans in the diaspora has unveiled what could be the best answer to overcoming the misery that has engulfed a nation whose citizens are now dogged by their own disunity, mistrust and disrespect. “God helps those who help themselves”.

This group is arranging an investment mission in Zimbabwe once the GNU is in place, to empower Zimbabweans in South Africa via various activities that include creation of jobs for diasporans through Zimbabwean-run SMEs.

In a whisper, this is the bone and marrow of Batanai Bambanani Zimbabwe Association (BBZA), a non-profit, non-political registered organisation which promotes the interests of Zimbabweans in South Africa through business, professional, social and legal activities.

BBZA wants to create a value system based on selflessness, tolerance, respect, honesty, hard work and unity of purpose that endure over time by assisting to create a business friendly climate for Zimbabweans in the diaspora and at home.

There might not be any success stories to tell or an enormous database to boast of at the moment but there are a number of initiatives BBZA can do for any Zimbabwean who becomes a member.

Imagine duty free exports of vehicles to Zimbabwe for members or local currency rates in hotels in Zimbabwe or changing driver regulations when one brings his or her vehicle to Zimbabwe and as a member of BBZA is allowed to let his or her friends and relatives assist in driving his South African registered vehicle in Zimbabwe!

If we are inspired by such wonderful prospects, we should be motivated and moved to join and be involved in the activities that BBZA can offer. The association’s business activities promote the interests of business members through lobbying and propositions to governments and other institutions. This means creating strong business linkages with Zimbabwean businesses and creating a diasporan economy by assisting with business opportunities and investments.

On the professional front, BBZA’s well-oiled pledges aim to improve professionalism through educational programmes that span insights on immigration and immigration laws.

This will in turn promote self-reliance through mentorship programmes that will provide Zimbabweans in the diaspora with a distinct and sustainable advantage in South Africa and the world. An association such as BBZA could easily encourage and propagate the participation of diasporan professionals in playing their part in revamping the Zimbabwean economy.

One way in which the professionals could play their crucial role is on the provision of legal advice, advice on immigration services and laws and advice on immigration requirements specific to Zimbabweans in order for them to carry out their business ventures with almost no legal impediments.

This legal branch could well ensure that the activities of BBZA are in accordance with the constitution of the host countries and hence ensure the smooth flow of businesses run by Zimbabweans in the diaspora.

Vukani Madoda writes from South Africa.