Home » Governance » State and Diaspora a 2-Way Street

Things that inhibit economic development in the developing world are not always lack of policy but lack policies that cohere and are in tandem with the people’s aspirations.

The argument has been put out there for a long time that Diaspora policies can only be relevant and fit for the purpose if they are formulated through consultation and participatory engagement of all the stakeholders. In this case the very key stakeholders are the Diasporans themselves. The Zimbabwean Diaspora is both an asset and a responsibility and any policy should encapsulate that.

When a Zimbabwean is out there in their adopted places of residence they represent the face of Zimbabwe. It is hoped that they take that responsibility seriously and project the right face of Zimbabwe, not the denigration and demonisation of the country they clearly love or the bringing of the country into disrepute through some of the things seen recently on British television.

Sometimes a lot of people struggle to make the distinction between their disapproval of Zanu-PF and their patriotic obligation to Zimbabwe. Zanu-PF is not Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe is not Zanu-PF.

Throwing brickbats at Zanu-PF is a constitutional entitlement but not so when it comes to slandering and vilifying Zimbabwe.

But then it is not only the people in the Diaspora that need to take their responsibility towards Zimbabwe seriously.

The Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) needs to also take its obligations towards its people in transnational territories seriously. For starters, the lot of the people that left Zimbabwe in the last 16 years have had children who are now turning 16-18.

They need Zimbabwean IDs. Surely having to pay pound800 to send one’s child for a trip to Zimbabwe to pick up an ID that costs $10 is imprudent in any man’s language. This is not a first call. This column has already aocated for there to be facilities at the good embassies for the thousands of Zimbabweans to be able to maintain their links with Zimbabwe. If it is a cumbersome process as it is they just won’t bother. Possibly the reader would say, who cares? Ah, Zimbabwe cares.

The value of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora should not just be seen through the of Diaspora remittances. There is more value to the Diaspora than that. As said earlier, this is a two-way street. Last week this column was on about dual citizenship. It was asserting the rights of the people of Zimbabwe who live in different territories. It also showed that the rights of Zimbabweans do not attach to territories, they attach to citizenship.

But the Diasporans should not be citizens of convenience.

They shouldn’t be Zimbabweans when it serves their interests and something else when it serves a different interest.

That is tantamount to having your cake and eating it. There is a right to fair comment but that does not mean a right to denigrate your identity. Most of the readers disagree with a lot of things their parents stand for or do but that has not given them carte blanche licence to wantonly exercise the freedom that came with the Age of Majority Act. Call it self-censorship, this column will call it responsibility.

In our two-way street, the people have to support the Government chosen by their compatriots and the Government has a responsibility to show moral leadership.

A government that lets its vulnerable people go through unremitting suffering is either neglectful or abdicating its responsibility.

But also a Diaspora that shouts from the rooftops and even fights against the normalisation of relationships of the GoZ and other countries is a seditious Diaspora that makes it very difficult for its Government to engage with it.

The people in the Diaspora do not pay taxes to the GoZ. And if the latter was to try to make them pay, there would be a paper pile of renounced citizenship. That puts everyone in a Catch-22 situation.

It creates a democratic deficit in that it obligates the State of Zimbabwe towards the Diaspora without giving the Diaspora a responsibility for funding that State. There is no doubt in the author’s mind in that the way the Diaspora can pay its dues to the State of Zimbabwe is not through taxation but by adding qualitative value to it.

A citizen cannot cry for extra-territorial rights without extra-territorial responsibilities.

But equally the State should recognise both the causal and correlation between sovereignty and responsibility, with the sovereignty being the responsibility to do right by the people.

That is one side of the street going in one direction but the other one is that the Diasporan also has to practise sovereign responsibility because sovereign responsibility follows the passport just as sovereign obligation follows the passport.

The author hopes that the argument is not convoluted and it just makes sense by each party taking responsibility of its obligations.

The current state of affairs where the citizens wail loud for the State to provide them with this and that when they give nothing in return does not work.

People within Zimbabwe can cry for different things because they pay taxes and take responsibility for a whole lot of other things. But the good Diasporan is also looking to obligate the State but abrogate certain patriotic responsibilities.

Well, patriotic responsibility is non-spatial. Just as one’s responsibility to carry the family name with honour.

One doesn’t have to be in their home village in Chivi to do so (or elsewhere, for that matter). It follows them everywhere they are.

For their being extra-territorial responsible citizens, the Diasporans should be accorded that automatic right to pass on their citizenship to their children no matter where they were born and where the other parent is from.

This the same right that someone living in Zimbabwe has, right? Remember in the Zimbabwean context the term “Diasporan” connotes external citizen rather than dispersal.

And an external citizen is just a citizen all the same. They have the right to diplomatic protection and they also have a right to return with all that is theirs.

The Diasporans are just a transnational Zimbabwean community which deserves to be treated as any other. They are just non-resident Zimbabweans (NRZ). Because of a very good literacy base, some NRZ have skills, experience as well exposure to a certain way of doing things in aanced economies.

There is a responsibility to tap into this resource to help aance the Zimbabwean economy as well. To view everyone that left Zimbabwe for a raft of different reasons as a sell-out is missing a clear opportunity. There is a lot to learn from Kenya regarding Diaspora engagement.

There has been a team of doctors from the Diaspora that always go back to Zimbabwe to work for free as a way of giving back.

The hoops they have to jump just to be able to do that are something that has to be tackled in a different article. The crux of the matter is that there are Diasporan professionals that give back to Zimbabwe. Here are patriots donating their time to their country and honour without an expectation of a financial reward.

But without a one-stop-shop ministry to co-ordinate all the different Diaspora groups and what value they try to bring to Zimbabwe as well as drafting an acceptable Diaspora policy, all these efforts will remain fragmented, haphazard and chaotic.

Zimbabwe has a lot of scientists outside the country who want to build linkages with universities and the business sector to awaken innovation.

There is no question that the country’s industry uses archaic and in some cases obsolete technology thus making local products expensive and uncompetive against products from other developed economies. Even at the height of economic sanctions one can argue that there was an opportunity of import substitution that was missed.

With so many patriotic scientists, Zimbabwe should have been at a different level. The reader is probably thinking, “where are these scientists?” There are there but the State doesn’t know who and where because there is no systematic registration of citizens in the Diaspora.

The question of where they are and what they are doing there and whether they have skills that can be transferred home for the benefit of the motherland should be addressed through a simple Diaspora database. Without that information any Diaspora Policy is dead in the water.

The brilliant idea of Diaspora bonds would be very difficult to implement without accurate demographic information on the citizenry. If the census in Zimbabwe was held for economic planning reasons then it’s not too late to have a census for those in the Diaspora. It can easily be done online.

Let us as well remove suspicion on those that come and try to give back for purely patriotic and altruistic reasons.

There is an attitude that they are up to something or some unknown hand is funding them for nefarious activities.

As Zimbabweans, the charitable spirit of giving back seems to be quite alien to us. May be it’s our experience with NGOs who in most cases have another agenda.

A new agenda between Zimbabwe and its NRZ needs to be set.

Zimbabwe is the ultimate beneficiary of such an effort. Ignoring the Diaspora is missing an opportunity.

Source : The Herald