Tanonoka Joseph Whande
Monday April 29th, 2013
South African banks have been releasing very interesting financial figures which indicate the financial advantages Zimbabwe the country is enjoying due to its citizens who are either economically or politically marooned in South Africa.
The issue of those in the Diaspora being allowed to vote and to participate in electoral proceedings is an underestimated necessity.
At first, the ZANU-PF government didn’t want to hear about it because they suspected that those who are in the Diaspora, as political or economic refugees, had been driven out of Zimbabwe by ZANU-PF’s violence, lack of jobs and bad policies.
That being the fact, they feared that, if given the chance, those in the Diaspora would certainly cast votes against ZANU-PF.
So many times we heard Robert Mugabe pouring scorn on those economic refugees working in the UK, Europe, US, Australia and elsewhere, saying that they left home so as to wash white people’s behinds in nursing homes overseas.
There is no question that Mugabe and his party viewed Zimbabwe’s economic refugees with disgust and would not entertain any thought of putting in place a system to enable the Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to vote.
But as more and more Zimbabweans left home, something started happening as those same Zimbabweans started remitting millions and millions of foreign currency into financially strapped Zimbabwe, a country that was literally broke and had resorted to printing worthless pieces of paper as a way of camouflaging the economic crisis bedevilling the country.
Many Bureaux de Change were opened to cater for the growing number of remittances from Zimbabweans abroad.
I remember that around 2004, RBZ governor Gideon Gono was squandering money overseas where he went to promote his financial tuck-shop called Homelink. It failed as Diasporians stuck with established money transfer companies, such as Western Union.
I cannot imagine how relatives back home in Zimbabwe would have survived during the draught and during those times when Mugabe, then as now, denied food to some people because they were suspected to be sympathetic to the MDC.
People in the Diaspora saved their kin in Zimbabwe and, painfully, the money they were remitting was also finding its way into government and ZANU-PF coffers.
Even the nascent MDC tremendously benefitted financially from Zimbabweans in the Diaspora.
But looking at how these political parties treated Zimbabweans in the Diaspora in their new Constitution will show how unthankful and conniving these politicians are.
They barred Diasporians from voting and refused to put in place a system that would have made it possible for them to vote from wherever they are.
In March, just before the referendum over the constitution, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) secretariat ruled that “Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora should be allowed to vote in the referendum and forthcoming elections”.
The ACHPR said that the State (Zimbabwe) must “provide all eligible voters…the same voting facilities it affords to Zimbabweans working abroad in the service of the government and that the respondent State takes measures to give effect to its obligations under the African Charter in accordance with Article 1 of the African Charter, including in areas of free participation in the government”.
It never happened and the MDC, not surprisingly, agreed with ZANU-PF on the issue to deny citizens abroad their right to vote.
Diasporians are being used by both parties. Now “the government is said to be ‘happy’ with a Diaspora that continues remitting millions to Zimbabwe, because of the ongoing weak state of the national economy” as “recent figures from South Africa have suggested that roughly $600 million is being remitted to Zimbabwe annually from the Diaspora”.
South Africa’s First National Bank released information to the effect that Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa remit more that 6.7 billion Rands to Zimbabwe.
“We are not encouraging the Diaspora to come home because once you are back home you are not very valuable,” Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara told a Zimbabwe investment conference held in South Africa earlier this month. “We’d prefer a strong Diaspora that will help this country to develop either by way of remittances or investment.”
And yet they deny us the right to vote and other services that we deserve as citizens of Zimbabwe living abroad. It is ironic that our absence from Zimbabwe makes Zimbabwe financially stronger through the money we send back home to our families yet we are not extended those basic human rights such as voting.
The heart of the matter is that the government of Zimbabwe has to acknowledge the importance and role played by those, for whatever reason, are in the Diaspora. Whether they are political or economic refugees, Zimbabweans everywhere do not forget their country and relatives and send something home all the time.
Apart from the large financial contributions realised from those in the Diaspora, it is the responsibility of any government to take care of its citizens wherever they are but ZANU-PF has always taken care of only those who support it.
Diasporians are Zimbabwean first and their political affiliation should not be used to deny them protection and services by their own government.
That is childish and stupid…but what can you expect from Mugabe and his illiterate morons in ZANU-PF.
Now, figures don’t lie. Money is flowing in and they want it.
Our government has always known of the financial muscle the Diasporians had judging by the way they tried to cash in through opening bureaux de changes outlets and even attempting to set up money transfer outlets to rival Moneygram and Western union.
But the government, particularly ZANU-PF, despised its citizens abroad because of silly political paranoia but the figures now can no longer be ignored.
At first, the government did not want the Diasporas to vote or return home fearing that they would swing the elections against ZANU-PF.
Now the same government does not want the Diasporas to vote or return home because they are remitting more than US $600 million home every year.
So who is using us? Our own government or those foreigners whose white behinds we are wiping in the nursing homes every day.
If Zimbabweans in South Africa alone can remit to Zimbabwe more than US $600 million every year, think of those in the US, in the UK, in Australia, New Zealand and Europe.
It is difficult to comprehend how the MDC capitulated on the denying of Zimbabweans of their rights. It is truly incomprehensible that, in their quest for personal glory, the MDC could consider using people’s rights as quid pro quo for favours that hardly benefit the nation.
But here we are. Both the MDC and ZANU-PF want our money but they won’t let us vote for either one of them.
Both the MDC and ZANU-PF, along with their leaders, must be ashamed of themselves!
The abuse, the sidelining and the neglect of those in the Diaspora must stop before we go any further. The MDC, which by far benefits more from those in the Diaspora, must act on this issue soon after their disgusting betrayal of sacrificing human rights for their short-sighted political chess games.
I am Tanonoka Joseph Whande and that, my fellow Zimbabweans, is the way it is today, Monday April 29th, 2013.
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