Diaspora power and the realities of our dispersal

The Zimbabwean Diaspora population has a tough needle to thread in formulating the economic recovery plan and the crucial accompanying political reforms for Zimbabwe.

Life in the Diaspora requires the dexterity of balancing the patriotic yearning for a return to Zimbabwe and surviving in the difficult rigours of an exiled existence. This tenacity and resilience has become a hallmark by which the majority of Zimbabweans abroad are now defined. Abiding and benefiting from the rule of law in the countries in which they reside makes it impossible for the Diaspora to contemplate returning to Zimbabwe unless their civil liberties are permanently secured.

The US State Department estimates that over fifty thousand Zimbabweans now live in the USA. It is now a common feature on football Sundays, for Zimbabweans to join their American compatriots and cheer on their favourite American football team, wearing shirts emblazoned with images of Eagles, Cowboys, Redskins or the Colts. American football is a sport unfamiliar to most Zimbabweans back home. In the summer, it will be time to watch baseball - a complete social and cultural metamorphosis.

This Diaspora grouping is now accustomed to and anchored in unavoidable capitalist consumerism social habits that are an indispensable feature of the fast-paced life in the USA. Drive through banking, fast food courts and the emergency (911) number that promptly triggers the response of an efficient ambulance, fire or police service within minutes have become second nature.

The estimated one million Diaspora Zimbabwean residents in Europe are now also accustomed to free market economy traditions and enjoy the freedoms of speech, association, and other civil liberties unknown to their fellow compatriots in Zimbabwe. Their social habits are dissimilar to their USA counterparts. Real football (known as soccer) forms the social bond and Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea to name a few, are as popular. Cricket has a sizeable Diaspora following.

Over three million Zimbabweans have trekked down south and have made South Africa their home. They enjoy the financial liberation in Africa’s largest economy and the freedom, protected by one of the world’s most liberal constitutions.

This synopsis brings a conservative figure of over four million Zimbabweans now living in the Diaspora and whose monetary support to an equal number of relatives and friends back home through remittances has helped the Zimbabwean economy.

The time has come for this collective financial power to be transformed into a cohesive political centre. Diaspora residents—the true believers of freedom—need to politically motivate and positively influence their relations in Zimbabwe. Diaspora rights and aspirations are best articulated and defended by Diaspora residents themselves through the strategic occupation of the palpable void created by the polarised political landscape in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabweans have become world citizens and tolerant internationalists. Soon it will be common to experience a cultural fusion that will blend Asian, European, American and African Diaspora experiences at a single-family reunion in Zimbabwe.

Freedom and tolerance are not an invention or preserve of the West. African political leaders cling to the notion that ordinary citizens must not question their authority under the guise that it is against our African values, traditions and customs. Hate and intolerance are un-African norms and pose a threat to national reconciliation.

Yearning for freedom has absolutely nothing to do with reverting to colonialism (kudzorera nyika kuvarungu) or a threat to the sovereignty of Zimbabwe.

All Zimbabweans have a God-given alienable right to be free and live in peace.

No government or man can take those rights away.

According to the electoral commission in the 2008 presidential election, Zimbabwe had 5 934 768 registered voters and 2 537 240 people voted - a 42.75% turnout. Only 1 079 730 people voted for the incumbent Robert Mugabe who garnered 43.24% - with all the irregularities included. Morgan Tsvangirai received 1 195 562 votes or 47.87%.

If only 42.75% of the people in the Diaspora—who voted with their feet and left Zimbabwe—were now permitted to vote for a leader of their choice whilst residing in their respective countries of abode, more votes would be cast by exiled Zimbabweans than by voters in Zimbabwe. The main ingredients for a vibrant democracy – the rule of law – would compel Zimbabweans  to vote freely without voter intimidation or political violence in the Diaspora.

Diaspora residents are proud patriotic Zimbabweans whose contributions—second only to multilateral humanitarian aid—helped buttress Zimbabwe during the harsh period of an economic meltdown.

The diaspora residents collectively hold the keys to Zimbabwe’s economic revival.

Phil Matibe – www.madhingabucketboy.com

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