A Bulawayo Indian businessman told a United States embassy official that Indians were now leaving the country but they were not going to South Africa because they saw too many parallels between the South African of today and the Zimbabwe of 10 years ago.
Instead they were leaving for Australia, the UK and more recently the United States. He said roughly eighty percent of Indian families in Zimbabwe had relatives who had left Zimbabwe.
The businessman, Jyots Laxmidas, reminisced that ten years ago Indian Zimbabweans would never have contemplated such a move.
Viewing cable 05HARARE1, THE INDIAN COMMUNITY OF BULAWAYO
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000001
AF/S FOR BNEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVELLE, D. TEITELBAUM
USDOC FOR ROBERT TELCHIN, TREASURY FOR OREN WYCHE-SHAW,
PASS USTR FOR FLORIZELLE LISER, STATE PASS USAID FOR
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: THE INDIAN COMMUNITY OF BULAWAYO
¶1. (SBU) Summary: Despite their strong ties to the country,
Zimbabwe,s ethnic Indians are increasingly contemplating
emigration as a result of the country,s continuing economic
slide. This was the message Econoff received from the Indian
community in Bulwayo on a recent visit. The loss of this
economically important minority would be a further blow to
the country. End Summary.
THE BUSINESS CLIMATE: AN ASIAN PERSPECTIVE
¶2. (SBU) On a December 6-7 visit to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe,s
second largest city, EconOff met on December 7 with 40 ethnic
Indian businesspeople. Jyots Laxmidas, a prominent Indian
and owner of a textile manufacturer called Style
International, undertook to give EconOff a tour of
Bulawayo,s industrial and commercial areas. During the
tour, Laxmidas noted in particular the significant number of
manufacturers who had gone out of business. He said their
place was increasingly being taken by distributors of
imported products. However, these distributors employ far
fewer people than the outgoing manufacturers did and as a
result unemployment in Bulawayo has worsened. Laxmidas noted
that for those still manufacturing in Zimbabwe, costs are
rising and sales dwindling. For instance, his company went
from 170 employees at the start of 2004 to 60 by December.
¶3. (SBU) In order to make up for declining sales, Laxmidas
said Indians were expanding the scope of their businesses and
investing in real estate. In addition to his textile
business, Laxmidas said he now exported Zimbabwean curios and
other items and that he and his friends had purchased several
buildings around Bulawayo. Laxmidas said with high inflation
and negative real interest rates, it was the only safe
domestic investment. He added that the GOZ had effectively
made overseas investments illegal through its prohibition on
externalizing foreign exchange. Several businesspeople with
whom Econoff met pressed for the U.S. to do more for
Zimbabwe, with one person noting that the U.S. was unfairly
punishing Zimbabwe by excluding it from AGOA, arguing that
other countries which do not meet the qualifying criteria
were being included.
ETHNIC INDIANS CONSIDER LEAVING ZIMBABWE
¶4. (SBU) Laxmidas and others noted that the Indian community
in Zimbabwe has historically had close ties to President
Mugabe and the ZANU-PF, one of the reasons they had not
suffered the same fate as white farmers over the past few
years. Nonetheless, he said most ethnic Indians had at least
considered leaving Zimbabwe, and had at least one relative
who has done so. He reminisced that ten years ago Indian
Zimbabweans would never have contemplated such a move.
Driving down streets of Indian-owned businesses, Laxmidas
recounted how one Indian shop owner,s son had gone to the
U.K., another,s parents had departed for Australia, and so
on. In fact, he said roughly eighty percent of Indian
families in Zimbabwe had relatives who had left Zimbabwe.
Laxmidas noted that the U.S. was also becoming a popular
destination. His own brother had recently left for the U.S.
and several of the Indian business people in Bulawayo had
already obtained U.S. citizenship. Interestingly, Indian
Zimbabweans are not going to South Africa as they see too
many parallels between the South Africa of today and the
Zimbabwe of 10 years ago.
¶5. (SBU) Laxmidas said the main spur to Indian emigration was
economic. However, a strong contributing factor was their
fear for their children,s future. Before the temporary
closure of private schools this past winter, Indians believed
their children could at least receive a quality high school
education in Zimbabwe. Now the education-minded Indian
community worried that the GOZ would run down the private
schools as they had already done to the public ones.
¶6. (SBU) Another contributing factor is the political climate
and especially the uncertain presidential succession. Both
ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC have appealed to the Indian
community for financial and electoral support. Those appeals
include promises of &protection8 for the Indian community
but also veiled threats should the Indians support the wrong
side. Laxmidas said Indians believe they are safe from any
ethnic backlash while Mugabe remains in power due to their
(and India,s) historic support for the ruling ZANU-PF.
However, the Indian community is worried that any Mugabe
successor might be tempted to &indigenize8 Indian-owned
businesses, especially if the community supports the losing
¶7. (SBU) It,s a measure of how far conditions in Zimbabwe
have deteriorated in recent years that so many ethnic Indians
are leaving or thinking of leaving. The loss of this
economically significant minority would be yet another heavy
blow to the country. Yet, if economic and social conditions
continue to deteriorate- especially the school system- it
seems inevitable. We will continue to engage this small but
important minority in follow-up reporting on both the larger
Indian community in Harare and smaller communities in other
parts of Zimbabwe.