HomeNewsGovernment to re-engage diaspora - Mukonoweshuro

Government to re-engage diaspora – Mukonoweshuro

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The Zimbabwe government appears to be softening its attitude towards its Diaspora population that it has long viewed with suspicion.

Teldah Mawarire

At a business breakfast hosted by the ZimAchievers Business Circle together with the Mail & Guardian newspaper in Sandton, Johannesburg yesterday (Thursday), Zimbabwe’s new Consul-General Batiraishe H Mukonoweshuro said the government is changing its policy and is re-engaging its Diaspora and foreign actors.

ZimAchievers South Africa hosts networking events for Zimbabweans in the Diaspora and hosts annual awards for Zimbabweans who have excelled in various fields outside of Zimbabwe.

Mukonoweshuro was responding to sentiments from the audience that the government is anti-Diaspora and hypocritical in that while its happy to receive remittances from those working outside the country, it demonises them painting them as opponents of government even where they are apolitical.

Mukonoweshuro said while in the past there had been friction between the government and its citizens who work and live in other countries, this was now changing.

“We have an open-door policy. Our Diaspora policy is clear. We are saying those who want to come back home must do so with no fear.”

Asked why the government has asked South Africa to accommodate its nationals by reissuing special dispensation permits, Mukonoweshuro said there is nothing untoward about such engagements and that government only sought for its nationals to be accommodated temporarily in the neighbouring country.

In the past President Robert Mugabe has mocked Zimbabweans in the Diaspora making them the butt of jokes during his election campaigns.

In a rally speech in Mutare in 2013, he said of Diaporans: “You have your country; you fought for it, why are you running away?”

Mugabe took a dig at Matebeleland South Province that he said produces a large number of migrants to South Africa. “In Matabeleland South, there has always been a tradition that if you have not been to South Africa, then you’re not a man.
“I was 21 in 1945 and teaching at Empandeni in Plumtree… the whole area had no men, just women. The poverty that was there! The women couldn’t till the fields. Where were the men? In South Africa!
“They came back from South Africa, some came twice a year carrying some blankets. That was a tradition. If they got a bicycle, they were sorted. They would come, stay a week or two and go back. In Matabeleland South that has always been the tradition.

“Even those in America, they only come home to die. The coffins, we buy them because they didn’t leave enough money behind to buy coffins.”

Also speaking at the event, Trevor Ncube, chairman of AMH Holdings who was a keynote speaker, said the xenophobia experienced in recent weeks in South Africa should make those in the Diapora question themselves about “belonging”.

Xenophobia, Ncube said, was not just felt by the poorest migrants but is also alive in the boardrooms.

He cautioned the Diaspora population about developing a “superiority complex” of thinking they are better than those left at home, saying that the country had actually “moved on” without them.

Ncube encouraged Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to rethink about what the concept of “home” means and to give back to their home country.

“Our work as Zimbabweans in the Diaspora is not done until we give something back to where we come from. Even if you are successful in the Diaspora, the question of where is home, always remains.”

Of the media Ncube said the local media is too polarised based on party lines and that journalists are now viewing themselves as political activists which compromises their work.

“The integrity and professionalism of Zimbabwe’s journalists in both the private media and the government media has been compromised by taking political sides.”

Zimbabwean businessman and owner of software company Fusion Software David Tayler who was also a keynote speaker, spoke on the importance of new technologies for business. Tayler said his most resourceful clients were those in Zimbabwe who have managed to always do “so much with so little”.

ZimAchievers Business Circle will host another event in Johannesburg in June.

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