Disagreements in Zimbabwe’s inclusive government have put the country’s Diaspora engagement programme in danger.
A workshop planned for Botswana was cancelled at the last minute while meetings in countries such as Britain, Australia and the United States have been put on ice.
The Botswana meeting, which was scheduled for October 17 in Gaborone, was cancelled despite the International Organisation for Migration having paid airfares and accommodation for permanent secretaries, parastatal bosses and government officials who were expected to attend the workshop.
Economic Planning and Investment Promotion minister Tapuwa Mashakada was supposed to officiate at the meeting, while Zimbabwe embassy officials in Botswana and Botswana Home Affairs staff, members of the European Commission and the International Labour Organisation had also been invited.
The objective of the workshop was to explore and promote the role Zimbabweans in Botswana could play in the socio-economic reconstruction of the country.
Zimbabweans in that country also wanted feedback on the issues they had raised with the Zimbabwean government including clarification on their voting rights.
Also to be dealt with were issues to do with reintegration mechanisms, security guarantees for returnees of all classes as well as property and taxation issues.
Sources said some members of the inclusive government, especially from Zanu-PF, had become sceptical of the programme as they viewed the majority of people in the Diaspora to be supporters of the MDC formations.
“There is a feeling that it will be dangerous to seriously engage the Diasporans, especially now that the country may be holding elections next year.
There is even more scepticism because the programme is being led by an MDC minister, but it could have been different if a Zanu PF minister was in charge,” said a source in government.
The chairman of Global Zimbabwe Forum-Botswana, Panganayi Chakanyuka, and the national coordinator, Lennox Mhlanga, confirmed the cancellation of the Botswana meeting and said the development had left them angry.
They said they were informed that the government delegation failed to obtain Cabinet clearance to travel for the workshop.
“We note with growing concern, the manner in which differences between the parties in the inclusive government continue to disrupt the process of re-engagement with the Diaspora and the international community,” they said in a statement.
“The workshop would have produced concrete recommendations and a plan of action as to what the Zimbabwean Diaspora and stakeholders can do to effectively participate in the reconstruction of Zimbabwe, and how and when these actions should be effected.
“. . . Importantly, the workshop would have provided the opportunity for the Botswana Diaspora community to receive feedback on issues raised for the attention of the government of Zimbabwe.
These included clarification on voting rights for citizens in the Diaspora, dual and multi-citizenship, investment opportunities and consular issues.”
A diplomatic Mashakada confirmed that the Botswana meeting was called off at the last minute but insisted that the programme would go on.
He said the country was in the process of coming up with a policy framework on how the Diasporans could be addressed, to enable the country to harness investment and skills it lost as well as ensuring things such as safe migration.
He confirmed that several ministries were interested in the programme and said an inter-ministerial delegation would take part in the programme.
“It is just a postponement but we will certainly undertake the programme before the end of the year,” Mashakada said.
“We will work with all the ministries with an interest such as Higher and Tertiary Education, Foreign Affairs and Labour,” he said.
“From Botswana, we will engage other countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and others with a high population of Zimbabweans.”