by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG – THE elections Zimbabwe is scheduled to hold in less than a week are seen as key to the country’s future and a pivot for economic revival but Zimbabweans in the Diaspora are skeptical about returning home.
Such is the skepticism that responses to campaigns to mobilise Zimbabweans outside the country, mostly in South Africa and Botswana, to go and vote in the polls set for next Monday, have been lukewarm.
While some Zimbabweans would adopt a wait-and-see attitude, others appear outright they have lost interest in returning to their homeland they fled after almost two decades of economic and political problems.
There are even fears of a recurrence of xenophobic violence if nationals in host countries deem Zimbabweans must return if the elections bring revival.
The Zimbabwe Diaspora Forum (ZDF) is among civil organisations mobilizing Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to return home by latest Sunday to ensure they cast their ballots the following day.
“We are currently involved in the ‘Go Zim Vote’ campaign. We have been distributing campaign material to Zimbabweans mainly in Gauteng Province (South Africa),” chairman, Ngqabutho Mabhena, exclusively told CAJ News Africa in an interview.
He was however unsure if all Zimbabweans in South Africa and those scattered across the entire world would consider returning home soon or for good.
Mabhena said the prevailing sentiment among Zimbabweans outside the country was that chances of an economic revival were dire.
“The return of Zimbabweans will take time, it will depend on the ability by the new government to turn around the economy,” Mabhena said.
He said the creation of employment and the stability in the banking sector was key to reviving the economy.
“Once those (changes) are in place, skilled Zimbabweans will return. We (Diasporans) pray that the elections will be peaceful and all parties will accept the results for us to focus on the rebuilding of the economy after the elections,” Mabhena said.
He said most Zimbabweans in the Diaspora support the opposition in the upcoming polls.
“I am not sure if the Diaspora will adjust to a ZANU (PF) victory to an extent of supporting it,” Mabhena said.
The economic mismanagement and autocratic rule of the governing party with the now-deposed Robert Mugabe at the helm for 37 years are blamed for the trend that has seen an estimated five million flee the country abroad, mainly South Africa, Botswana, Canada, Lesotho, Mozambique, eSwatini
(formerly Swaziland), Tanzania, United States (USA) and United Kingdom.
Michael Mawere, the Zimbabwean businessman based in neighbouring South Africa, expressed lack of faith in the ZANU (PF) government.
“The ZANU (PF) regime ruined the country for 38 years. Thus, another victory for the party will be disastrous and calamitous to the nation,” Mawere told CAJ News Africa.
“Right now Zimbabwe requires fresh blood to lead the country to greater heights,” Mawere said.
Incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa (aged 75), who took over the reins from Mugabe through military support last November, and Nelson Chamisa (40) of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)-Alliance are the front-runners for the presidential post.
Other 22 hopefuls are eager to win the post, in what would represent a monumental upset.
In a separate interview with CAJ News, Luke Dzipange Zunga, who is the Global Zimbabwe Civil Society Organisations secretary general and chairman of Global Zimbabwe Diaspora Development (ZDD), expressed fear the elections could trigger a recurrence of xenophobic violence and tribal
“The fear in South Africa and Botswana, is heightened sense of xenophobia after this election. South Africa and Botswana are going through the same route as other African countries after independence, and have no clear idea, as was Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, how to tackle the economy,” Zunga said.
He argued communities from the southern Matabeleland region, who had fled to neighbouring countries long before the crises in Zimbabwe peaked in 2000 would refuse to be part of the new dispensation as the they felt neglected.
“Ndebele communities are not likely to go back. The majority of Ndebele left Zimbabwe well before the height of political persecution which started after the year 2000. A new President in Zimbabwe must be a balanced person who must show how the Ndebeles’ unhappiness will be resolved.”
He proposed a “Truth and Reconciliation” commission to address the 1980s atrocities in Matabeleland widely known as the Gukurahundi (Shona name) referring to: (“the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains”)
“…not just to say ‘Let’s forget about the past’,” Zunga argued.
Overall, he ruled out a mass return of Zimbabweans.
“There is no real development and citizens are on edge. Let’s not forget the South African government of Thabo Mbeki allowed Zimbabweans to settle in South Africa to take pressure off Mugabe and save him from internal revolt,” Zunga insisted.
“Therefore, they should allow Zimbabweans to go back smoothly because a rushed return is not possible even after the next elections are free and fair. However the citizens of South Africa are not clear about that.”
Zunga lamented the failure to arrange a Diaspora vote to enable Zimbabweans to vote regardless of their base.
“It appears the current government (ZANU-PF) is asking the Diaspora to come and crowd the situation before the off-take of development. I don’t think the Diaspora will immediately go home because they have been out of the country for a long time. Most are settled where they are, some even still in difficult conditions.”
Not even a pledges of $16 billion (about R240 billion) by the West to Zimbabwe if polls are credible could entice the Diaspora.
“That promise was not guaranteed,” Zunga argued.
– CAJ News