ACCORDING to Afrobarometer, a non-partisan research network that conducts surveys on various issues across different African countries, up to three or four million Zimbabweans live outside their country.
Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya
This is about a quarter of the country’s population.
The survey also says more than two million Zimbabwean emigrants live in South Africa alone.
In tracing waves of emigration since the 1960s, researchers have highlighted economic and political reasons as push factors motivating highly-skilled as well as impoverished nationals to look for greener pastures elsewhere.
This has contributed to serious brain-drain and skills flight, a major factor in the underdevelopment and impoverishment of countries like Zimbabwe.
By far the largest emigration wave in Zimbabwe came through the post-2000 exodus in response to controversial and violent land reform programme, economic crisis, and disputed elections. Repression, political violence and human rights abuses fuelled the flight of millions from their homeland. Economic failure was also a major variable. Some, however, left to look for new opportunities.
Remarkably, almost half of adult citizens in Zimbabwe say they have at time or another considered emigrating, although far fewer are actually making preparations to leave. The hunt for jobs is the main motivating factor for potential emigrants, who express considerable pessimism – and even anger – about how the country is governed and the economy is managed.
Findings in that regard include:
- Almost half (47%) of adult Zimbabweans say they have considered emigrating. One in 14 citizens say they are currently making preparations to leave;
- Search for employment is the main driver of emigration, cited as their main reason by more than six in 10 (62%) of those who have considered emigrating;
- South Africa is the preferred destination for the majority (55%) of potential emigrants;
- Young and well-educated Zimbabweans are significantly more likely to consider emigrating than their older and less-educated fellow citizens;
- Potential emigrants are more likely to offer negative assessments of the country’s direction and economic conditions, as well as the government’s performance, than those who have not considered leaving; and
- Almost half (46%) of potential emigrants say they “often” or “always” feel angry about the government’s failure to resolve the problems confronting the nation, compared to 26% of those who have not considered moving abroad.
People migrate for many different reasons, which include economic, social, political or even environmental.
Economic migration involves moving to find work or follow a particular career path, while political migration is driven by escaping political repression or conflict. Social migration entails moving somewhere for a better quality of life or to be closer to family or friends, while environmental causes of migration include natural disasters such as flooding, volcanoes or famine.
On top of the wave of emigration by Zimbabweans, when one considers that Mugabe inherited a country with one of the most advanced and strongest economies in Africa before reducing it to ruins and impoverishing people, failure becomes unmitigated.
It is now almost certain Mugabe will leave Zimbabwe without its own currency even though he found it with a currency stronger than the United States dollar; this is one of the most serious indictments of his disastrous rule.
Add to that bad governance, corruption and human rights abuses, the picture becomes complete. Zimbabweans are suffering in the midst of vast resources due to leadership and policy failures.
Even if Mugabe’s regime registered impressive education and human capital development indicators at the early stages of its rule, those gains have been wiped out by ubiquitous failures. Land reform and other such policies have only helped to impoverish the nation and its people. The incessant waves of emigration bear testimony to national failure.