UK diaspora now saying tanetanazvo!


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Zimbabweans living in the United Kingdom are now saying of politics- tanetanazvo, so it is now time for the government to take advantage of their potential by introducing a Ministry of the Diaspora which would be embedded within the business sector in Zimbabwe.

According to a new report by Zimbabwean Knox Chitiyo most Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom are now fed up with politics and instead of saying “tinodzoka kana zvanaka” they are now saying “hazvisati zvanaka”.

Chitiyo, an associate fellow at Chatham House- a British think-tank, says Zimbabweans in the UK are remitting £10 million every month. It is therefore critical for the government to tap into this resource because most Zimbabweans are increasingly dissatisfied with politics and are looking for business.

“Although the diaspora still has an interest in Zimbabwe’s politics, there has been a palpable decline in political activism among the UK diaspora since 2008.This is partly the result of the fractious and complex internal GNU and post-GNU politics, but also stems from the factionalism within the UK branches of Zimbabwe’s political parties,” Chitiyo says.

The GNU was the government of national unity which was set up in 2009 following a global political agreement between the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change.

Also at times referred to as the inclusive government, the GNU saw Robert Mugabe of ZANU-PF remain president with Morgan Tsvangirai of the larger faction of the MDC as Prime Minister and Arthur Mutambara of the smaller faction as Deputy Prime Minister.

The GNU was dissolved after the 2013 elections which saw ZANU-PF sweeping back to power.

“Much of the UK diaspora was unsettled as much by the process as by the results of the 2013 elections. A number of members of the UK diaspora contested the 2013 party primary elections and there was a UK component in the Diaspora Election Observer Mission. The popular notion that tinodzoka kana zvanaka [‘We’ll return to Zimbabwe when things are OK’] was replaced by the idea that hazvisati zvanaka [‘things are not yet OK’].

“But notwithstanding the political issues that divide Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom, and that have occasionally been contentious between them and the Zimbabwe government, interviews in the United Kingdom point to a community increasingly disengaged from politics and engaging with Zimbabwe through entrepreneurialism and business opportunities instead.

“The push and pull of economic hardship in ‘austerity Britain’, and business opportunities for those who are networked with the power and business elite in Zimbabwe, have also resulted in a number of people returning on a permanent basis,” Chitiyo says.

 

Full excerpt:

 

The diaspora

From 2000 to 2008, political deadlock, violence and economic decline deterred investors and led to millions of Zimbabweans leaving the country. Although it was the disputes within the GNU that generated media headlines, it was the less publicized politics of accommodation within the GNU that created an enabling environment for the stabilization of the economy. From 2011, with increased interest in Zimbabwe from African and global investors and tourists, the government embarked on the ‘Brand Zimbabwe’ project described above, to re-engage with the world and refurbish the country’s credentials as a destination of choice. A key target constituency was the Zimbabwean diaspora.
The size of Zimbabwe’s diaspora is contested; after 2000 the statistics became politicized, with figures routinely inflated or underplayed as supporters and critics of ZANU-PF and the opposition battled for control of this narrative. Adding to the complexity is the question of whether the figures refer to the combined historical and contemporary diaspora (i.e. Zimbabweans living outside the country from the 1950s to the present) or to the contemporary diaspora (i.e. only those who have lived abroad since 2000). Although some estimates put the global diaspora at around five million (including one million in the United Kingdom), more conservative estimates suggest it is around three million.
Most of the diaspora is in South Africa and the region (probably around two-and-a-half million). According to the more reliable estimates for the Zimbabwe diaspora in the United Kingdom (historical and contemporary) the figure is between 250,000 and 400,000.
Between 2000 and 2012 the diaspora brought an estimated £50 million per month into the Zimbabwean economy – with around £10 million from the United Kingdom.

The flow of remittances has traditionally been an important contributor to African economies and this is also true for Zimbabwe. Between 2000 and 2012 the diaspora brought an estimated £50 million per month into the Zimbabwean economy – with around £10 million from the United Kingdom. This sustained injection of funds has been crucial in helping Zimbabweans at home to survive a turbulent decade. During the 2000s many among the diaspora, broadly speaking, were alienated from the government, which they blamed for allowing the economy to collapse and forcing them to live abroad. Few considered a return home.

Towards the end of the decade, the dynamics changed, however. First, the diaspora in the United Kingdom and elsewhere became a far more disparate community. The standard cliché that the UK diaspora consisted only of nurses, care workers or cleaners no longer applies. Zimbabweans were finding employment across a variety of sectors, including teaching, management and banking, and it is estimated that their contribution to the UK economy is £10 million per month. They were also making their mark as entrepreneurs, in sport, media and the creative arts. Many, particularly asylum-seekers and those without adequate documentation, were also finding work in the UK ‘underground economy’ through church, familial and other networks – although many others, fearful of falling foul of the authorities and possible deportation if found working, have suffered deprivation.

Second, the combination of relative stability in Zimbabwe since 2009 and recession in the West has prompted a reengagement between the diaspora in the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.

Third, although the diaspora still has an interest in Zimbabwe’s politics, there has been a palpable decline in political activism among the UK diaspora since 2008.This is partly the result of the fractious and complex internal GNU and post-GNU politics, but also stems from the factionalism within the UK branches of Zimbabwe’s political parties.

Much of the UK diaspora was unsettled as much by the process as by the results of the 2013 elections. A number of members of the UK diaspora contested the 2013 party primary elections and there was a UK component in the Diaspora Election Observer Mission. The popular notion that tinodzoka kana zvanaka [‘We’ll return to Zimbabwe when things are OK’] was replaced by the idea that hazvisati zvanaka [‘things are not yet OK’]. But notwithstanding the political issues that divide Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom, and that have occasionally been contentious between them and the Zimbabwe government, interviews in the United Kingdom point to a community increasingly disengaged from politics and engaging with Zimbabwe through entrepreneurialism and business opportunities instead. The push and pull of economic hardship in ‘austerity Britain’, and business opportunities for those who are networked with the power and business elite in Zimbabwe, have also resulted in a number of people returning on a permanent basis. As yet, voluntary returnees are far outnumbered by the illegal emigration into South Africa, which was estimated to peak at 3,000 people per day in 2007.74 They are distinct from trans-border Zimbabwean migrants and traders who travel back and forth between Zimbabwe and other countries.

The diaspora is already engaged in the Zimbabwean economy but mostly in a private or familial way. This will continue but there are also increasing calls for a more structured, post-political business partnership between the UK diaspora and business and political stakeholders in Zimbabwe. There is much scope for a more formal partnership to complement the informal partnerships already extant. This will be important to the country’s development for the rest of the decade and beyond.

As noted, the diaspora is already contributing through remittances and business partnerships are increasing. The diaspora also contributes skills to the local economy upon return, although this is a reciprocal benefit since a number of those whose professional skills had atrophied in the United Kingdom have been able to re-skill in Zimbabwe through working in the formal, NGO and informal sector.

For such a partnership to advance there is a need for a Ministry for the Diaspora that is also embedded within the business sector in Zimbabwe. The UK diaspora, known colloquially as ‘Harare North’ or ‘Zimbabwe North’, in turn needs to articulate a collective vision (perhaps through a White Paper) on how it would wish to engage, particularly from a business point of view. All this would help point the way to a Diaspora–Zimbabwe Strategic Partnership that could be a vital part of the country’s development. Many members of the diaspora in the United Kingdom have expressed their feelings in the phrase ‘Politics? Tanetanazvo!’ [‘we’re fed up with it’]. But the diaspora in South Africa, which is closer to the events in the country, is far more engaged politically as a community. There will not be a large-scale diaspora migration back to Zimbabwe, but the steady, if unspectacular, return will continue. After the poor reception given to Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s call in 2010 for the diaspora to return home en masse, the GNU and the current government have promoted diaspora–Zimbabwe partnerships instead, with some diaspora criticism. This kind of partnership idea is also particularly necessary given the fact that the fragile economy cannot immediately absorb a large-scale ‘returnee’ influx anyway.

(10 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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