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GNU mustn’t underestimate diaspora

IT has been widely reported that Zimbabwe’s absolute collapse was averted to a large extent by the country’s diaspora whose remittances kept households and many informal businesses going.

Yet today we hear claims that the country will plunge into civil strife if the international community does not assist Zimbabwe financially. We must understand that we are not the darling of the world, and that the world does not owe us anything.

It is sad that since the installation of the GNU no clear effort was made to engage the diaspora and much emphasis has been on the international community. The Short Term Emergency Recovery Programme (Sterp) is a good step towards engaging the diaspora.

Those of us who live in the West can only wish the Zimbabwean government the best of luck in their appeal for Western aid. We hope that they will soon see the light and call for an all-Zimbabwean conference in a major European capital to ask Zimbabweans in the diaspora to come to the country’s aid by investing at home and share ideas on the way forward.

There are so many diaspora organisations that have been organising in anticipation of change at the home front so that they can contribute more effectively.

How would you feel when there is a problem in the family and you hear that your parents are approaching strangers for help before they even consider appealing to you who have been playing a big part to keep that family going?

It is thought that more than three million people –– at least a quarter of the population –– have left for neighbouring states and further afield to Britain, the US and Australia. Just imagine how much money can be raised if there was a creative way of engaging all these people.

There are various ways in which the GNU can engage the diaspora. One way would be for the GNU to complete the appointment or removal of ambassadors with immediate effect so that there is clarity.

The new or re-appointed ambassadors in the respective countries will then have to quickly audit the Zimbabwean diaspora organisations and  call for a conference to be addressed by a carefully constituted government delegation.

The diaspora are also affected by the credit crunch but they have a soft spot for their country because of family links and would therefore take the risk of investing at home whilst foreigners would not easily take such a risk.

If the Zimbabwean government cannot convince its own citizens abroad and challenge them to be ambassadors of the country abroad they should forget about the international community.

However, the diasporans naturally have issues that they also wish addressed since it is a two way process.

The government has to understand that, for instance, it is taking at least a year to a get a passport through the embassies abroad.

This means that Zimbabweans who would want to come home and visit the tourist resorts and contribute foreign currency are not able to do so.

These problems can be solved through an interface and the sooner the engagement is done the better. Re-engagement of the diaspora outlined in the new policy document Sterp is a great idea but like most policies it is about its implementation.

The diasporans not the international community will give the new inclusive government an immediate ear especially in these times of global financial crisis. As the Bible put it, a prophet has no honour is his own land. 

What works in other countries might not work in Zimbabwe but the new government should not underestimate its own people abroad.

Musekiwa Makwanya,
United Kingdom.

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