JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA —
Zimbabweans in the diaspora have been urged to start influencing the social, economic and political situation back home.
Alexandra Betts, director of the Refugees Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, told Studio 7 at a recent meeting organized by the Global Zimbabwe Forum in Johannesburg, that running away and having nothing to do with the country will not solve Zimbabwe’s problems.
Betts said now is the time for millions of Zimbabweans, who have almost deserted the nation, to look back and start working towards a prosperous country.
He said the experience gained by Zimbabweans from their host countries is very vital for the positive transformation of the country, once regarded by some independent economic commentators as the breadbasket of southern Africa.
Betts said those Zimbabweans living in other nations should start asking themselves critical questions about the future of their own country.
Many questions were raised at the meeting on how Zimbabweans are expected to engage in most of these issues, including the taking of some collective action to rebuild the nation.
Some even suggested that they should be allowed to vote in key elections, a move that has been resisted over the years by the ruling Zanu PF party, which has indicated that this is not feasible for a nation struggling to generate funds for capital expenditure and payment of its workers.
The country’s opposition parties and non-governmental organizations tried in vain to push this agenda during the constitution-making process under a unity government between 2009 and 2012.
Daniel Molokele, a Zimbabwean human rights lawyer who has been living in South Africa for the past 11 years, is convinced that the future of Zimbabwe is largely in the hands of those in the diaspora.
Molokele challenged Zimbabweans living in the diaspora to start making hard choices, including returning home either as investors or to take up political positions in order to drive the country towards a brighter future.
He said, “We need to start to think seriously to say deeply, where do we really fit in? What does it mean to be in the diaspora and where can we position the diaspora in the national agenda in Zimbabwe in such a way that Zimbabwe benefits, to say how can we be integrated back as contributors to the development agenda.”
Another Zimbabwean, Godfrey Phiri, said his fellow country men and women living in the diaspora have a potential of influencing some social, economic and political issues back home as they continue to get sound education, which is vital in rebuilding Zimbabwe.
Phiri said it is possible to have a future Zimbabwean leader, who is currently living outside the country.
He said Zimbabweans in the diaspora should never give up in their attempts to rebuild the country.
“Since the end of the GNU (government of national unity) people have lost hope and what we have been looking at so far, it’s a matter of building the platforms where Zimbabweans are also seen to be taking some kind of responsibility in other challenges which they face and then participating somehow in the development of the country.”
The majority of Zimbabweans who spoke to Studio 7 in South Africa said they are ready to go back home to rebuild their nation, devastated over the years by political bickering between opposition parties and the ruling elite.
They believe that a lot depends on their acceptance by the Zanu PF leadership, which has of late been concentrating on an internal political strife that is threatening to ravage the nation of over 13 million people.