HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsDo one little thing for your country Zimbabwe

Do one little thing for your country Zimbabwe

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Just when I thought things might be improving, I keep hearing negative news from Zimbabwe regarding company closures, liquidity, water and electricity outages. I have been asking myself what can be done by individual Zimbabweans in the Diaspora and, think I have come up with a very simple way to help.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” according to Steve Jobs.

Over the last couple of years, my wife and I have sent over various families, French and American, to Zimbabwe on holiday going as far as drawing up their itinerary and giving advice on where they eat and sleep.

In some cases, we have travelled with families, the latest being in December last year when we did Great Zimbabwe, Matopos, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.

All of them have come back saying how much they loved the place and our type of friends are not the kind to hold back on their opinions! When I was a teacher, many years ago, we used to bring in French children from Reunion Island every year for six years and even organised a rugby match between Reunion Island veterans and a Bulawayo outfit at Hartsfield. So I think I know what I am talking about.

Humbly.

Now, if wildly speculative figures about the number of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora are true, there is an opportunity for individual Zimbabweans, who are prepared to put country first and politics second, to help. If it is true that up to a million Zimbabweans live outside the country and if half of that number heed my idea, the country will be in a position to receive a million tourists in 2014 if they sell the country as a great tourism destination to a couple each. All my wife and I have done, at various social events and individually is to tell people how beautiful the country is and what tourist attractions it has to offer. Sometimes, it is people we meet at parties who remark that they have heard that Zimbabwe is a beautiful country and we confirm the fact. From my travels, I know that not every Zimbabwean is in a position to ask the neighbours to visit his beautiful country because the kind of neighbourhood they live in, but they do work for people who can afford to travel!

I also know that there are a lot of bitter people out there for political reasons, but there is a difference between supporting a political party and helping your country avoid a total collapse. The country needs foreign currency quite badly, but even bigger than that, it needs a huge dose of confidence. I think, apart from job creation and the revitalisation of manufacturing, there is no greater visible confidence boost than the sight of hundreds of smiling tourists in hundreds of resorts everywhere in the country.

Now you can be cynical and talk about water, electricity shortages and poaching. My response is that tourists love the pristine nature of our resorts, the hospitality of our people and are pleasantly surprised at the peace and security in the country. The last two families we sent over, who travelled in a two-car convoy absolutely loved Hwange, dry as it was.

They shared stories about the friendly man at the lodge offered to boil their water now or in the morning and they found this rather interesting as an experience. When I was in retail, we knew that our greatest friend was the housewife who through word of mouth could increase or lower our customer count. It is these tourists who will go back to their countries and through their stories lower the din of the politicians over here and over there. The government can help, of course, by limiting revolutionary talk to April 18 and Heroes’ holiday. It is time to make friends.

As for Zimbabweans, I have noticed a disturbing trend, especially among the twitterati who try to outdo each other in knocking the country. By all means criticise bad governance, but offer solutions.

Bad Air Zimbabwe and Zesa jokes may be therapeutic, but you can do that in the pub. A friend once said to me, “cynicism makes us lose money”. I know that some comments are generated by frustration borne out of love for the country. It is time to fall in love with your country again, but in a different way because at this crucial stage, it is more important to build rather than destroy through ill-conceived generalised statements about it.

Great Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls for instance are unique in the world. Even Kariba is a special kind of lake and the Matopos offer a novel experience. By focusing on and extolling our unique selling propositions to your friends, colleagues and bosses, you are helping to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness. One friend, one social event at a time. Your single contribution will add to the single contributions of half a million Zimbabweans who, together, can “single-handedly” bring a million visitors to Zimbabwe in 2014.

As Bob Dylan sang, “if you are not busy being born, you are busy dying”.

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