While thousands of Zimbabweans have settled outside the country, many continue to remain engaged and plugged into the developments in their nation.
A town hall discussion organized and hosted by VOA’s Zimbabwe Service in Washington, titled, Zimbabwe @ 36: The Way Forward, revealed deep-seated concerns among those in the diaspora, about their country’s current state.
Many follow developments closely and want to see a better Zimbabwe for themselves and their families.
One of the panelists, educator and Baptist Minister, Rev. Isaac Mwase, who believes Zanu-PF and President Robert Mugabe should be engaged in all discussions on the country’s future, as the elected government, noted the diaspora’s keen interest in their country.
“While there are a lot of challenges the country is facing, it’s exciting to see that people are concerned and that Zimbabweans outside the country, those that are here in America, are engaged fully,” said Rev. Mwase.
Den Moyo, the North America representative for the Movement for Democratic Change led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said for true democracy to take hold in Zimbabwe, nothing short of a total uproot or removal of Zanu-PF would do.
Moyo said Zanu-PF stifled democracy in the country. “As long as there’s no democracy, as long as there’s that continuation of oppressing people’s view points, and not allowing them democratic space, as long as elections are not credible."
But Doug Coltart, a Zimbabwean lawyer-based in Washington, and the son of prominent Zimbabwean lawyer and former legislator of the MDC led by Professor Welshman Ncube, argued that the attainment of true democracy in Zimbabwe is bigger than a substitution of one party by another.
“I don’t think that will come simply by changing a Zanu-PF government with another party, just like that,” said Coltart. “I think there is a fundamental problem in Zimbabwe from the top to the bottom, where we don’t have a democratic culture where we respect the views of all people.”
Friends of Zimbabweans in attendance, too weighed in on the debate, with Obi Egbuna, the U.S. correspondent for Zimbabwe’s state-controlled Herald newspaper, challenging panelist staff director Chris Simpkins of the U.S. House of Representatives about alleged U.S. efforts to effect regime change in Zimbabwe, saying America should stay out of Zimbabwe’s affairs.
“It is up to them (Zimbabweans), it is up to Africa to stand by them (U.S.) and all agents outside Zimbabwe, outside of Africa working for regime change should be met with the fullest resistance possible,” said Egbuna.
But Simpkins rejected accusations that the U.S. is involved in changing Zimbabwe’s government. Simpkins, who recently visited Zimbabwe, said the U.S. is committed to helping Zimbabweans and wants to ensure that the government is accountable to the people.
“There is a great deal of frustration among people in the diaspora,” said Simpkins. “They are not sure if the U.S. is helping or not, they want to know how we feel about the government. And the message that I would like to leave is that the United States government is not an enemy of Zimbabwe. But we’ve seen some things happen that are self-destructive, on the part of the government. And we’d like to see that the government can make a change and allow people to elect leaders that they want. We don’t have a vote in Zimbabwe.”
Pan-African Poet, Tsitsi Madzongwe, who opened the town hall with a poem, backed by American-mbira player, Joy Schulman, said she was too impressed by the open discussion, but stressed the need for patience to let real change happen.
“Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it is our responsibility as people in the diaspora to work towards that change,” said Madzongwe.
Despite their differences over how change can be effected in their country, the conversation on the way forward for Zimbabwe, is always a subject of discussion among those in the diaspora.