Wednesday, 8 July 2015
The Diaspora and Resuscitating Zimbabwe’s economy
Increasing the Diaspora contribution to the national economy is to increase their rights as well.
Position Paper Number 3
Issued 8 July 2015
1.0 The Committee of the Peoples Charter (CPC) notes that the development of any nation is chiefly driven by its citizens – both within and without the country. The latter constitutes a rich cross-section of the country’s human capital that is resident in other countries, constituted by both skilled and unskilled labour. This population is commonly referred to as the Diaspora.
1.1 Various reasons, to varying degrees, and over different time periods have led to many Zimbabweans leaving the country; the post 2000 political and economic instability being the most recent to have forced citizens to leave the country.
1.2 It is currently estimated that 3 or 4 million Zimbabweans are living abroad, the greater majority being resident in Southern Africa. A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) paper on ‘The Potential Contribution of the Zimbabwe Diaspora to Economic Recovery’ produced in 2010 suggests that South Africa alone is estimated to have in excess of 2 million Zimbabweans, and close to half a million in the UK.
1.3 The general trend has seen Zimbabweans migrating to countries with more developed democratic cultures such as South Africa, the UK, USA, Botswana, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This postulates the absence or lack of democracy or a democratic culture in Zimbabwe as a major push factor influencing this outward migration.
1.4 This departure of the skilled labour component has immensely contributed to the phenomenon of ‘brain drain’ which consequently has had a negative impact on economic growth and overall development. This flight of skilled personnel has had the most negative impact on the health and education systems.
2.0 For a long time now, and especially in the wake of a deteriorating economy, Zimbabwe has been receiving substantial support from her Diaspora. This support has been mostly in the form of remittances to family and friends, as well as transfers between people and organizations.
2.1 Official figures from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe show that in 2013 alone, Zimbabwe received US$1, 8 billion through money transfer agencies and the formal banking sector, though this represents a slight decline from the 2012 figures of around US$2, 1 billion.
2.2 The government of Zimbabwe has as a result moved to capitalize on this reality with manoeuvres being made to tap from this huge inflow of funds so that the local economy benefits from Diaspora savings.
2.3 Recently the Minister of Finance has proposed for the government to formalize platforms for engagement with the Diaspora through the Zimbabwe Diaspora Home Interface Programme (ZDHIP).
2.4 This is emanating from the reality that the vast majority of remittances to Zimbabwe by her Diaspora are not coming through official government channels, from which the government can tap into and be able to drive the Diaspora savings’ contribution to the national economy.
2.5 Many cite distrust of the government by its citizens as the main reason, especially in its (government’s) handling of the banking sector in particular, and the economy in general.
3.0 However, these enthusiastic manoeuvres to tap into the contribution of the Diaspora have not been matched by equal enthusiasm to accord the Diaspora their rights as legitimate, well-serving and patriotic citizens of Zimbabwe.
3.1 Of particular concern is the constant denial, despite spirited albeit false claims by the drafters of our constitution of the inclusion of the provision for a Diaspora vote, which does not exist in the current national constitution.
3.2 This contempt for the Diaspora by the regime is also noted in the silence of key blueprints such as Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) which fails to capture the contribution of the Zimbabwean Diaspora to the establishment of a genuinely sustainable socio-economic transformation.
3.3 Indeed, and to the contrary, we have had to listen time and again as Zanu PF and at times government representatives pour scorn on the Diaspora for having exercised their right to search for greener pastures outside Zimbabwe as the economy continues to deteriorate.
3.4 While a significant majority has left the country for chiefly economic reasons, an almost equal proportion cite bad governance and politics as the reason compelling their departure to other countries. Some have genuinely fled persecution of all kind from the ruling elite as it has used every possible trick in the book to hold on to power.
4.0 It is the humble submission of the Committee of the Peoples Charter (CPC) that any engagement with the Zimbabwean Diaspora especially where it pertains to their contribution to the development of the nation should be hinged on the genuine recognition of Zimbabweans abroad, as full and legitimate citizens of this country, with equal rights and opportunities as citizens resident in the country.
4.1 The government should genuinely recognize the Diaspora as part of our country’s demography and therefore ensure that the same rights as enjoyed by citizens resident in the country are also accorded to and enjoyed by the Diaspora.
4.2 Chief among these rights is the right to be involved in the governance of their country; this by being accorded the constitutionally prescribed right to ‘vote in all elections and referendums’.
4.3 There is no judicious reason for the Zimbabwean Diaspora to be denied this fundamental right to participate in elections from which-ever country they are resident, through the same means by which other citizens resident, such as state employees at foreign embassies in the Diaspora are accorded an opportunity to vote.
4.4 The inherent right of the Diaspora to contribute to the national economy and to the general development of the country should be matched by the enjoyment of the Diaspora of all fundamental rights and freedoms that are accorded to all citizens of Zimbabwe by the national constitution.
5.0 It should be inherent upon government to ensure that it engages with all its citizens, both within and outside the country, so that it is primarily the needs, wishes and aspirations of these citizens that informs national progress and development.
5.1 This should ideally begin with the inclusive drafting of a holistic Diaspora Policy Paper that takes into consideration the needs of all citizens; taking into consideration the existence of both push and pull factors influencing outward migration from Zimbabwe.
5.2 Serious thought should be made by all stakeholders, including government, business and civil society actors towards the formulation of an inclusive ‘Framework for Re-engaging the Diaspora’. This should take into consideration the diversity that exists within the Diaspora and how they also feed into various spheres of the well-functioning of the nation state.
5.3 Government must also take it as its chief responsibility, to creating an environment that will encourage its citizens to stay in the country and also more importantly encourage those outside to return, and champion the development and progress of the nation.
5.4 Consideration should also be put on building the confidence and collective trust of citizens in the governance and overall macro-economic management of the country, as basics, in retaining as well as attracting skilled labour in both the private and public sectors.
5.5 It should be noted that while Diaspora remittances may be critical in supporting households and alleviating poverty in the short-term, the return of skilled labour in both the public and private sectors can be a sure cog in the long term economic stability and development of the country.
5.6 It is and should be one of the government’s key priorities to ensure that the environment in the country is sufficient to accord all citizens, without discrimination on whatever grounds, equal opportunities and right to self-actualization; this in pursuit of a socially just, democratic and open society, based on the fundamental ideal of a social democratic state, where citizens own and drive national processes, progress and development.
Issued by the Diaspora and International Solidarity Committee of the Committee of the Peoples Charter