by Nango

Members of the Zimbabwe Association (ZA) in Leicester have given a warm welcome to a lobbying campaign by organisations inside Zimbabwe to strengthen the diaspora’s civic rights and to engage them in the country’s economic reconstruction.

A delegation from the National Association of NGOs (NANGO) and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition reported back to Leicester ZA on 16 December on research carried out earlier this year to assess the diaspora’s potential to invest and trade with Zimbabwe and how this could be harnessed.

The report, Harnessing the Diaspora Potential for Socio-economic Development in Zimbabwe, recommends that Zimbabweans abroad should be granted the right to vote and to dual citizenship. The Government of National Unity should actively lobby on their behalf to enable them to take part in economic activity, and create trade and investment incentives for them to do so.Machinda Marongwe, NANGO programme manager, pointed out that other nationalities interested in investing in Zimbabwe, such as the Chinese, enjoy more support from the GNU than Zimbabweans in the diaspora. Those diasporans who are undocumented migrants have no guarantee of security and social protection in either their host country or on return to Zimbabwe. Vital human capital is lost through their inability to work and consequent de-skilling.

Government policy on diaspora issues has been held back by bickering over policy management and who should be in charge. Six different government departments, including the Prime Minister’s Office and various ministries, have all been mandated to work with the diaspora. A coherent authority structure is needed to implement a clear and coordinated strategy of engagement.

Chris Mweembe, NANGO policy advisor, explained that the report was also about creating a dialogue with the diaspora.  Strategies for collaboration were needed, because ‘one finger cannot crush a lice’. Civic society organisations inside Zimbabwe and diasporans needed to work closely together to lobby the GNU and to ensure that the constitution-writing process takes diaspora issues and needs fully into account.  He described how it had already been instrumental in influencing parliamentary debate.

Harnessing the Diaspora Potential notes that with the help of the internet, the diaspora has great potential to organise itself into networks capable of playing a strategically important role in Zimbabwe’s development.  While the report itself will only reach a small minority of diasporans, the ideas behind it can potentially spread more widely.

McDonald Lewanika, director of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, pointed out that Zimbabweans at home and abroad each had misconceptions about the other. Life for many Zimbabweans in the diaspora, including ZA members, is certainly not one of comfort and abundance, while back home the fundamentals of continuing insecurity, unemployment, poverty, lack of social services and declining infrastructure are concealed by much of the media.

The many questions and comments from the Leicester audience prompted lively discussion on how to deal with the risks to personal security faced both by diasporans, above all deportees, on returning to Zimbabwe, and the delegation themselves in preparing and presenting the report and its recommendations.

McDonald Lewanika, responding to a questioner who asked what ZA members could do to support the delegation, urged the strengthening of communication channels and information exchange. ‘Solidarity is a two way process,’ he said. ‘Let’s work on building mutually beneficial relationships, and scream if either of us is in trouble.’

Harnessing the Diaspora Potential for Socio-economic Development in Zimbabwe: Investment, Trade and Participating in Political Processes, by Medicine Masiiwa and Best Doroh, is published by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Zimbabwe and the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO), in partnership with Progressio-Zimbabwe. Contact Chris Mweembe at chris@nango.org.zw for more information



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