We will never know if the ruling party foresaw the post-2000 crisis, marked by mass migration or indeed the continued social decay and exodus of the second wave in 2008. We will probably also never know if they anticipated the influx of cash returning to the country via remittances.
We can debate the level to which remittances continue to enable economic recovery, inadvertently helping our ‘elected’ mismanagers during what can only be called a crisis. But it is clear that remittances are a vital part of the formal economy, with official figures suggesting an 11% of GDP contribution via formal channels directly monitored by the treasury. Other reports estimate the total could be as much as 40% of GDP. What we can say, for sure, is that according to reports and official calculations, over the last three years, remittances via official channels are falling.
It is also indisputable that the mass migration since 2000 was an act of self-preservation and not one of self-loathing. Clear evidence of our love of the motherland is borne out in the sheer size and diversification of the remittances sector; money, goods and services paid for from abroad for the benefit of those still at home.
A future apart
However, with the majority forced to put down roots and mould a future away from Zimbabwe, those in the diaspora are beginning to assimilate into the culture and landscape of their adopted homes, changing the nature of their patriotic relationship. The exiles are finding partners, getting married, having children, educating themselves, making friends and buying houses, all the while sending money home to the relatives and/or with dreams of returning home one day.
The Zimbabwean diaspora are no different to any other citizen of any other country with hopes and aspirations for better lives for themselves and their children – no one dreams of hardship for those they love. As the years turn to decades, estranged families will be reunited in foreign lands, and of those who remain the older generations will pass away and the younger will flourish and become self-sufficient having made a plan.
Then that mighty river, those billions of dollars, will diminish to a trickling stream. Remittances in decline is not a transient phenomenon but an inevitable eventuality and it is unrealistic to expect that a contribution of somewhere between 15 – 40% can be sustained in the long-term.
So, with grand ideas of progress in mind, both our Finance Minister and the Acting Governor of the RBZ were quoted, in February, as saying that they were exploring ways to “harness diaspora savings for the development of the domestic economy” via the “Zimbabwe Diaspora Home Interface Programme”. Presumably to capitalise on this financial force before its certain wane in the decades to come and more than likely to exploit the longing for home that exists amongst the first generation emigrants.
Dear Dr Governor of RBZ, the majority of the diaspora are no longer waiting with bated breath for the situation to improve so that they can come home and certainly not while the socio-political incentive for their exile remains firmly in place and unchanged: those who mismanaged our country’s economy.
Dear Mr Finance Minister, the diaspora will not engage with you, sending you money to support the very regime that forced them to abandon their motherland. They cannot forgive or forget the devaluations, the wheelbarrows of cash, shortages, separation of families, deconstruction of society, stolen votes, violence, intimidation and deaths.
The disenfranchised and displaced ask you: where is the dignity in coming cap in hand to us when you are living in and managing a country rich in diamonds, fertile land and abundant tourism opportunities?
Thus, we will choose financially to support causes, charities, projects, people and businesses that demonstrate good governance, not government led tin-pot schemes that lack accountability and transparency. With whom will there be dialogue about the reduction in payments?
Surely not dialogue between the powers that be and the people they have spent so long castigating and despising. Instead of riding on the back of our remittances, if you feel so brazenly sure that we are ready to support you by engaging in dialogue, why not establish a Zanu (PF) finance appeal and let us diaspora vote directly with our cash donations?
We Zimbabweans are an adaptable bunch, home and abroad, and anyone with experience of our communities in other African countries or overseas will know that we are proud of our heritage.
We love our country and we have not forgotten those we left behind. In trying to access and influence this cash flow directly you are asking us to condone what you did to our economy and you are asking us to become complicit in your continued stifling of democratic values.
Yes, we will send money home but you cannot rely on us to prop up the fragile economy that you have destroyed. Remittances are in decline and you can expect that this trend will continue.