Zimbabweans in Diaspora: What’s Left For Us?
By Gracian W. Masiyiwa, zimeye.org
The case of Zimbabweans in the diaspora is a sad one. It’s like a coach putting his best players on the bench. This bunch of Zimbabweans outside the borders of Zimbabwe is depended on, but hated, feared and always used. During the decade of drought and economic down-turn, we helped economy remain on its feet and contributed almost better than mining to national GDP, and we became like an economic sector, even though we were getting worthless paper in exchange for our hard earned cash.
It is estimated that 3 million or more Zimbabweans are living in the diaspora, and the number should be more now with more children born outside Zimbabwe. We are almost a quarter of the Zimbabwe’s population, and in 5 years’ Zimbabweans abroad will be more than the whole population of Botswana.
What really did we get on dual citizenship issue?
Are you satisfied guys? Is the issue very clear to you? If you are satisfied its fine, but if not, lets make sure proper satisfaction is achieved in future. We will have full and straight-forward dual citizenship.
What did we get on diaspora voting?
We are talking of a quarter of a million people unable to vote or denied chance to vote, and we can’t exercise our choice of leadership for Zimbabwe; its like we have big heads, big wallets and very faint voice. It is likely that most Zimbabweans abroad may be supporting the MDCs, according to those who fear our voice, but there are many more belonging to other parties; and we are also all Zimbabweans. Having a free and fair election in Zimbabwe was going to be a consolation for us because we are victims of autocracy and its sharp fingernails, of economic mismanagement, and of anything that came because of human rights abuses. But what we see in Zimbabwe, especially in the run up to elections, when some parties have meetings disrupted, having no-go areas for some parties and also having soldiers harass communities in support of one party; this is not good at all. If unfairness had remained with us only, in terms of voting, we would still swallow the bitter pill under protest, but then if this unfairness goes on within Zimbabwe, when a quarter of the population outside is banished from voting, the whole process becomes a farce to those who look closely.
We would want to see equal press campaigning opportunities for all or major parties and freedom of people to assemble according to the laws of the country without disruption. Remember there is no major opposition party in Zimbabwe and ZANU PF is not the ruling party because they lost in the last election, so there is also no major opposition party. So how come there is no fairness in the conduct of election campaigns, and who is the one to deny the other equal opportunity in press coverage and freedom of assembly, and they use what authority? The SADC region should take much time to sort this issue out and make a proclamation on diaspora vote; that no constitution of its member countries should deny voting rights for citizens in the diaspora. If the diaspora is a sector or constituency in economic development, why not in voting? It is high time we in diaspora come up with some structures to allow orderly and clear mechanisms that facilitate diaspora vote. If the election campaign process is not fair at home, then its high time we push for a diaspora vote because our country will not be represented in fairness and the people at home are completely powerless, including leaders of other parties.
There are even some words that they cannot dare to speak, but we can. They allowed the flawed constitution to go through, not through satisfaction, but to rescue the country and its population from the hands of those who would take advantage of the stalemate, and keep everyone wearing the smelly colonial constitutional jacket. The compromise even left too much power in the hands of the executive president; and now for the country to move forward, it depends on the type of president we have, whether or not he will choose to exercise all those powers. What we are saying is that even if that powerful president was from the party or parties that we support, we will still not support such powers. Our failure to reject the executive presidency will have serious repercussions on the powers exercised by parliament and the quality of its decisions. We all know this but we chose to move forward for people’s sake; even in forming the GNU it was again for people’s sake; Lord of Mercy! So seeing a fair campaign and election process is a consolation indeed, although without the diaspora vote the legitimacy of any leader elected is not an unbiased voice of the people of Zimbabwe; its like an equilibrium below full employment.
Did those in diaspora get land?
Perhaps some got it, and some don’t care much about it because they empower themselves in other sectors. If we talk of inheritance for your children, there is nothing better than land. Yet in Zimbabwe the same people who own big swathes of land and multiple farms are the same people with big stake on mines, industry, banks and politics. There is this gold rush on duplicitous acquisitions on resources without any futuristic concern. Our presence here which saved the country from economic collapse has helped sustain the political careers of them all and saved them from the wrath of people whom they are now harassing and beating again, then deny us our right to vote. We have an immoral tragedy in Zimbabwe. If the votes are to be held in June and July, why not allow diaspora vote? We don’t take much time to arrange ourselves here and there are no war veterans, or restricted press or intimidation or staffing of ballots or no-go areas. Two weeks or a month is enough to arrange ourselves. Let us in diaspora arrange ourselves right now and make and create a diaspora constituency. Let us copy what Ghanaians do and have our own voters’ roll. Even if some think that it is too late, let us just do it, and then approach our leaders at home and let us be denied chance to vote after at least trying.
Let us sensitize SADC right now on the importance of such issues to ensure proper governments of the people in our member countries. By the way, which other countries in SADC do not allow diaspora vote? Let us hear their reasons as well. In England the Monarch saves people from abuse by politicians, and in Southern Africa we have SADC, otherwise we are in perpetual repression. We all thought that the constitutional drafting process was going to be very short and elections coming early, but this was not so. Had we known in advance, we could have arranged ourselves, but we have lots of time to do it. If we cannot arrange ourselves on this issue, how are we going to come together on other issues concerning projects which also need funding? Here we don’t care that one is ZANU PF and the other is MDC, except for a few who are possessed. Let us show them that we are democratic and we are peaceful and we have order. Otherwise, if democracy faces miscarriage in Zimbabwe in our watch, why did we suffer as second-class citizens abroad to rescue economy of our country?
And Indigenisation, what are we getting from it?
This indigenisation in its proposed form is not proper empowerment at all, for it empowers the already empowered, so its not empowerment? It is a finalisation of the wealth grabbing process, done in anger, to put into action years of negative rhetoric and consolidate total economic domination by a few rich people whose tentacles are everywhere where riches show up in any form. Let me tell you, this way of doing indigenisation is a cautious ploy by a few to safeguard their own future and creation of a comprador bourgeois with aim of economic domination and total wealth ownership whether they win an election or not; If they win an election, then paradise-come-early for them, and cronyism has reached puberty, and the country will not develop, with or without sanctions. If they lose an election, then its comfort for those few who already own much wealth, and through this wealth they become both an powerful economic force wielding much political power, even if they are very few. They cause havoc to any government that is not led by one of their own. The UDI leaders were acting in the same manner, and did you see how hard it was to try and bring equality in ownership of wealth even years after independence? There was not much diamonds or platinum then, but now the new elite is repeating that with more vigour and one day only massive sacrificial people power will sort this injustice.
They have the army and police on their side and refuse to reform it, and use it to intimidate the population and even to do mining of diamonds, so their present and future wealth is already protected. And an election is just an irritating procedure to them, but they can’t help stop one because the world is watching; so the best way out is to rig that election, reduce number of people from other parties voting, intimidate others or use whatever way possible. And if a Mugabe is an election candidate, then violence is inevitable, for many protect their wealth by keeping him in place. And you guys in diaspora, where is your wealth? Where are your diamonds and gold and farms and platinum; Are your relatives managing to buy shares in the indigenisation programme? And lastly, where is your voice?
If you live in the West you are already labelled a potential enemy; if you learn French you are suspected to be a French spy; if you learn Hebrew you are a Jewish or Israel spy. So the intimidation and suspicion is to keep you outside, so that you are silent and inactive, and if possible to kill or maim you there; for you may cause havoc and disturb enrichment plans of others at home. We may lose everything, but not our voice. We also have former war veterans in the diaspora, we have teachers, doctors, economists, nurses, social workers, lawyers and many other professionals who deserve great honour. My question is, ‘Are you satisfied with what’s happening? Do you like what you see? Let us organise ourselves now.