By Daniel Chigundu
THE Zimbabwe Diaspora Policy which was formulated in July 2016 to help government engage with citizens living outside the country is silent on the topical issue of diaspora vote.
It is estimated that about three million Zimbabweans are living in such countries as South Africa, United Kingdom, United States of America, Botswana, Australia, Canada and New Zealand among others.
Zimbabweans in the Diaspora have been calling on the government to enable them to exercise their voting rights while in the diaspora as is the case with other countries.
Diaspora voting is also one of the electoral reforms being demanded by opposition parties under the umbrella of NERA.
However, the government has not been willing to allow the diaspora voting as it alleges that most of the people living outside Zimbabwe are MDC-T supporters and enemies of the state.
Speaking at a workshop organised to develop a Diaspora Policy Action Plan recently, Dominic Muntanga who was representing a certain section of Zimbabweans in the diaspora said there is trust deficit between government and the people in the diaspora which must be solved first.
“Let’s not use the bambazonke (one size fits all) type of approach when dealing with diasporans; it’s not everyone who is in the diaspora who fled political persecution in the country.
“The diaspora community is not homogenous but it is very varied therefore an understanding of what it is will help in the crafting of a better policy.
“There is no good relationship between government and the diasporans because to government engagement is more about getting money from them only, yet the diasporans can contribute more than money,” he said.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Macro-Economic Planning Judith Kateera said the government is aware of the diaspora contribution and that the policy will help tap more from them.
“The Zimbabwe Diaspora Policy provides a strategic and comprehensive national framework for the government of Zimbabwe to maximise and harness the development potential of the Zimbabwe Diaspora.
“In 2009 diaspora remittances stood at US$294 million, increased to US$552 million in 2011, US$788 million in 2013 and peaked at US$935 million in 2015. The remittances were mostly used in areas such as real estate, agricultural support and social responsibilities.
“Government also acknowledges that Zimbabwean Diaspora has huge untapped potential which should be harnessed for the development of the nation through investing in business, land, technology and skills transfer. Facilitating and structuring such activities would increase economic growth, employment opportunities and access to technology and market share.
“Government further acknowledges that Zimbabwe Diaspora wishes to be engaged as active citizens in national dialogue and affairs as they bring international exposure and lessons to the table,” she said.
European Union Delegation Charge d’affaires Giles Enticknap told the same workshop that some Zimbabweans in the diaspora want issues to do with dual citizenship, diaspora voting and consular support addressed before they participate in the country’s economic development issues.