An online war is raging between Zimbabweans in the diaspora and those that are based at home.
Characterised by humorous short videos popularly known as vines, in which diasporans declare Zviri kufaya which can be loosely translated as “Things are well”, the phenomenon has dominated Facebook discourse for several weeks.
While many see humour in the videos which usually involve Zimbabweans living abroad displaying opulence to rile their poor home-bound countrymen, some have taken offence. Whether we accept it as harmless humour or dismiss it as tasteless gloating, the issue certainly brings to the fore an undeniable truth: for many young Zimbabweans, leaving the country is the ultimate hope for economic emancipation.
In an increasingly open world, which is often referred to as a “global village”, migration is commonplace. Even citizens of first world countries leave their home countries, venturing around the globe in search of better career opportunities.
Others are motivated by the need to gain a globalised outlook of the business world, experience which is invaluable in climbing the corporate ladder in organisations that have foreign operations or export based businesses. For many Third World citizens, however, the major motivation is better economic prospects and sometimes also better political conditions.
Because a good number of Zimbabweans who are abroad live there illegally, there are few reliable figures for just how many people have left.
Estimates suggest that there are over two million former Zimbabweans in South Africa alone. The United States of America and the United Kingdom are also big destinations for Zimbabweans.
Other emerging destinations include Dubai, Australia and Canada. Zimbabweans have even been reported to move to exotic places such as the Czech Republic and East Timor!
The primary motivation for these people leaving their homeland is the lack of economic opportunities and deteriorating living conditions.
Although studies show that only 1% of Zimbabweans have had a university level education, there is an ever growing glut of graduates who cannot find any sort of work. Paradoxically, the number of universities has been increased while opportunities for graduates have been decreasing. Latest additions to the sector include Lupane State University and Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University.
While they have been reduced to a class of educated but poor and unemployed people at home, many of the graduates, particularly those from older, more reputable universities, have found decent work abroad.
Even the uneducated have also had it good outside of their home country. Many have found menial work in South Africa as construction labourers, waiters and other such jobs. Although not the fanciest of jobs, they have allowed them to eke out a decent living and even support their families back home.
Unfortunately for many, even those that are educated and experienced, it is not that easy to go abroad, especially overseas.
Numbers have been deported on arrival and many more do not even have the means to buy the coveted air ticket. So this unfortunate majority can only drool jealously over the few who have made it across the pond where the grass is greener.
When those that are enjoying life in the diaspora shove their wealth brazenly in the face of their poor countrymen who are stuck at home with little hope, emotions are bound to rise.
But it is not all rosy for our brothers, sisters, cousins and neighbours that have managed to flee the poor conditions at home. While they may be living in countries where one can get employment and where electricity is available throughout the day, they often face growing animosity from the citizens of their new homes.
As economies in First World countries begin to falter, blame has been cast on immigrants who are accused of putting pressure on local social amenities.
When recession hit and jobs were cut, many jobless people blamed immigrants for taking away their jobs.
Some have even faced deadly violence at the hands of angry locals. South Africa, the biggest recipient of Zimbabwe migrants, is notorious for hatred towards immigrants. Pictures of Zimbabwean immigrants being burnt alive are still fresh in many people’s minds.
While it would be difficult for our government to ensure the protection of rights of our citizens living abroad, they could surely do more to improve the situation here so as to deter the brain-drain. The last five years saw a marked improvement in the economy and indeed a few people returned from abroad.
But the trend is quickly reversing as it looks like the bad old days are back again. Government recently revised the GDP growth forecast for 2014 to 3,1% down from a stubbornly lofty 6,1%. The World Bank projects that the growth rate will fall even lower, to 2%.
One hopes the economy will be revived and there will be less need for people to leave the country.
Since the beginning of the year many companies have scaled down operations or shut down completely. Many of the workers affected have not been able to find alternative work.
Some will no doubt eventually find their way into the diaspora.
Zimbabwe will yet again lose experienced and qualified people.