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My fellow Zimbabweans in the diaspora — plan now for a better, post-Zanu-PF country

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Hopewell Chin'ono is a Zimbabwean journalist, documentary film director and anti-corruption activist.

If Zanu-PF were removed from power today, Zimbabwe will not be able to rise again quickly without the skills of the diaspora, and there are many Zimbabweans abroad, millions.

Last week Wednesday was yet another heart-breaking day for me as I made my way through Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport to catch my flight.

Many people who came to greet me at the airport in Harare and on the plane were mainly young Zimbabweans with university degrees but destined to be care assistants in Britain, a menial pursuit.

As they always do, it starts with a request for a photograph, and then we end up in conversation about the politics of our beloved yet battered country.

Last week was no different, loads of greetings and conversations as I spoke to these young people who were headed to Britain to start a new life as care assistants.

A care assistant, or professional carer, is responsible for upkeeping their clients’ hygiene, ensuring their safety and facilitating their meals when they need them.

Most of these carers will be looking after very old and frail people or those recovering from hospitalisation at home.

When I lived in England in the 1990s, care work was for those without tertiary education, and was only used as a stepping stone to bigger things, but today we have Zimbabweans with Master of arts or science degrees setting off to do care work out of desperation created by a broken economy and corrupt government.

No jobs, no future

The movement to England has been caused by two things — the tragic failure to govern by Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe, and the Brexit pull factor which opened these vacancies for people from the former British colonies, bringing people who speak English to the mother country.

The young man sitting next to me from Harare to Addis Ababa regretted that he won’t be able to vote in the 23 August general election, he wanted the satisfaction of voting out a corrupt and incompetent government, as he put it.

But desperate circumstances stole that opportunity from him, circumstances created by Zanu-PF misrule and state corruption which has left Zimbabwean hospitals without even basic medication like paracetamol.

It is not only jobs that are driving young Zimbabweans out, but also the broken down healthcare system — 2,500 Zimbabwean women die every year giving birth due to a lack of maternity theatres.

The biggest hospital in Zimbabwe, Sally Mugabe has only one working maternity theatre — built in 1977. As a result of this, 75% of women giving birth at South Africa’s Musina Hospital are Zimbabweans running away from a dilapidated healthcare system in Zimbabwe.

The whole of Zimbabwe’s public healthcare system doesn’t have a single working radiotherapy cancer treatment machine. Ninety-five per cent of Zimbabwe’s potential job workforce is sitting at home.

I consider myself extremely lucky, I come from a generation where one would study towards a particular profession, and then pursue that as a career after graduating from either the polytechnic or university.

Nowadays a lot of young people are sitting at home doing nothing, so working as a care assistant in Britain is a welcome opportunity for this generation of educated but unemployed youths.

As I always remind the young people who follow me on social media, I bought my first property in Zimbabwe when I was only 29 years old. It is in Colne Valley, one of the most affluent neighbourhoods in Harare, there were no shady deals done or any favours to get the mortgage. I just walked into CABS (the building society) and got a mortgage, just like that.

Today we have generations of young people that might never own even a two-bed home in the townships unless Zimbabwe’s political fortunes change, or unless they leave Zimbabwe.

For Zimbabwe’s fortunes to change, you need more than a people’s will and desire to vote, you need alternative political thinking with ideas and a plan for how to capture power and change Zimbabwe.

But until that happens, I and many others of my age will keep saying goodbye to Zimbabwe’s young, bright and smart who should be Zimbabwe’s future — which unfortunately is being absorbed to develop mainly Britain and South Africa.

When these young people go away, they won’t escape Zanu-PF’s corrupt and failed rule, because they must send money back home.

Their lives in Britain would not be of a standard that corresponds with their earnings because they must send siblings to school in Zimbabwe, and they must pay hospital bills for their elderly parents whose pensions were looted twice by the Zanu-PF government through hyperinflation.

Power of our people

The political alternative or opposition should pay attention to this aspect and get the Zimbabwean diaspora into a structured powerful group as opposed to sporadic groupings.

If Zanu-PF were removed from power today, Zimbabwe will not be able to rise again quickly without the skills of the diaspora, and there are many Zimbabweans abroad, millions.

We don’t know how to make things anymore, because we stopped making things a long time ago.

How do you become a diligent town planner when there has been no town planning taking place in Zimbabwe for decades?

How do you have people who have never worked their whole life leading your councils and parliament?

Some professionals in the diaspora will have to take patriotic leave from their workstations abroad to come back home and help rebuild the country, without which we are doomed.

So, as many young people leave Zimbabwe to do these care jobs in Britain, I urge them to continue studying while there because a day will come when the skills that they would have got there become highly needed back home.

To all the young people who came to greet me at the airport and on the plane, thank you for sharing your stories.

If it helps, I started off as a cleaner in Planet Hollywood in London while I was studying at university. But I found my way up faster because of my desire to do better for myself, and an upbringing that put hard work at the centre of everything I did.

I said care work was a stepping stone during my time, make it a stepping stone for yourselves too!

My tears are flowing as I type this, God will protect you, protect yourselves too by being honest citizens where you are going. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Bruce Danckwerts says:

    A nice inspiring and encouraging article. Although it seems likely that the ruling Zanu-PF government will win this election, they will not remain in power for ever. When they are finally voted out, the new government will indeed need many of the best Zimbabweans in the diaspora to return to help rebuild the country. However, they will also need IDEAS. Democratic elections are all very well, but there is a tendency throughout the world for politicians who have won an election (by various degrees of dishonesty) to believe that this win gives them a mandate to do exactly as they please. We, the people, need to insist on far greater involvement in the decision making process and far greater transparency in the way our precious tax dollars are spent. We live in the age of the Internet and I believe any opposition movement that might form in time to contest the next general election in Zimbabwe needs to (a) find a charismatic leader behind whom ALL Zimbabweans can unite and (b) promise to use the Internet to consult and collaborate with the people regularly on policy decisions and to post monthly statements of Income and Expenditure of ALL public bodies from Government Departments to State Owned Enterprises (c) also, no government contract/tender should be valid until 3 months after the Terms and Conditions have been posted on the Internet. With such transparency guaranteed I believe many Zimbabweans will be eager to return. Bruce Danckwerts, CHOMA, Zambia

  • Justin Howard says:

    are the Zimbabwe Election Commssion ready to hold free and fair elections, they have not even ordered basics like indelible ink yet, it may be worth investigating the state of readiness

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