What next for Zimbabwe’s diaspora

5 Min Read

August 27, 2013 By NqabaM

With the just ended elections, I am sure thousands of Zimbabweans in the diaspora are scratching their heads, wondering where to next.

I know a few who hoped that Morgan Tsvangirai would win and then they return home and probably by then the economy will be growing. But then it seems they were just building castles in the sand.

But for another crop of diasporans have made their adoptive lands their homes and might not be keen to return and President Robert Mugabe’s victory means they can continue staying in foreign lands, claiming they are on asylum.

But now for many who do not have requisite documents, they have to ask themselves the hard questions, return home or stay in a foreign country.

Most claim they are fleeing Mugabe, but now it’s time to be pragmatic and face the reality that Mugabe has five more years to rule (God willing), and how best they can take advantage of the situation.

A classic case of when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

A few months ago I was in Mozambique, where I met a few Zimbabweans residing in that country.

I felt for them, they said they were running away from Mugabe’s administration. I will not pretend to know their circumstances and what made them flee, but their living conditions welled my eyes with tears.

They spoke about how often they were harassed by authorities there and how they applied for asylum but are yet to receive responses from the government of Mozambique almost 10 years later.

I heard that life was hell for Zimbabweans who could not speak Portuguese and how you could be locked up – and the key thrown away literally – just for not having adequate travel documents when stopped by the police.

I learnt how they had to live a life of constantly bribing police officers, just so they could avoid the Mozambican prisons, as life was often harsh for foreigners there.

Like I pointed out, I will not pretend to know the circumstances that led them to flee Zimbabwe, but I thought to myself wouldn’t it be better if they just returned home.

Yes, it is true that there are no jobs in Zimbabwe, but it also true that there was a massive skills flight and there are vacuums that need filling.

While landing on their feet may be difficult for some, but at least they may cushioned by extended family.

The Shona in Zimbabwe have a saying that means you shouldn’t expect favourable treatment from strangers, and I think some Zimbabweans in the diaspora are learning this the hard way.

Most Zimbabweans have been enterprising in their adopted countries and I hope they can bring that spirit back with them.

On a similar note, I attended a Zimbabwean’s funeral in Yeoville, Johannesburg, South Africa.

The wake was held in a flat, where the deceased stayed with three other families, the situation there was as morbid as the death itself.

Relatives of the deceased occupied the kitchen, where they sang and prayed all night, with the roommates either joining the wake or trying to catch a few winks of sleep, which I am certain was close to impossible.

While I expressed my horror, I was told it wasn’t so bad. In Hillbrow I learnt that rooms were divided by curtains, cup and wardrobes.

One room can be shared by up to three separate families; I felt sad for my countrymen.

That is hardly an ideal way to live, but they have their reasons and who am I to judge.

Zimbabwe is far from comfortable, but I think some of the diasporans will be much better if they returned home.

For those who are doing well in foreign lands, good luck to them, but I am sure they are a small minority.

Zimbabweans have earned a bad reputation in neighbouring countries, but I am cocksure we are better than these stereotypical images that have been drawn of us.

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