Of Diaspora, how they must shut up


IN the aftermath of the harmonised elections and the somewhat stupefying outcome of the same, there has been much discussion around what went right, what went wrong and whose fault it was.

Delta Milayo Ndou

Somewhere along the way, a narrative emerged that laid the blame for Zanu PF’s ostensible victory at the door of the Diaspora who did not come back home to vote — the presumption being that these people would have voted against Zanu PF.

Now that Zanu PF has purportedly won, the prevailing sentiment on many social networking platforms appears to be that those in the Diaspora should just shut up and refrain from remarking on the results.

But those who would silence the Diaspora on the basis that they failed to come home and vote have overlooked the fact that there are just as many registered voters within the country’s borders who simply couldn’t peel themselves from their comfortable seats long enough to go and exercise their right to vote.

This flaring of hostility directed towards the Diaspora community is just a manifestation of tensions and resentment that appear to be simmering below the surface of our discourses as a nation.

In one Facebook post, some friends of mine unanimously agreed that people in the Diaspora should stop calling or emailing and sending messages to enquire about what was going on during and after the elections because “if they really care, they shouldn’t have run away”.

Such thinking sits rather uncomfortably with me for several reasons. I don’t think that crossing the Zimbabwean border makes me less Zimbabwean than the person who remains in Zimbabwe.

Secondly, I don’t think that Zimbabweans abroad need to apologise to Zimbabweans back at home for their choice to relocate. Certainly they don’t have to explain themselves or assume an inferior status in the national discourses.

Thirdly, I think it is incredibly narrow-minded to try and take out a patent on caring about Zimbabwe because telling people in the Diaspora to come back home and vote supposes that they have no other commitments or that there are no real barriers impeding them from doing so.

Fourthly, people in the Diaspora are quite entitled to ask about the country’s affairs and if you happen not to want to respond, you can politely inform them that you don’t want to tell them then they can ask a more co-operative person — there’s no need to be rude.

It is very unreasonable to sulk and rail against people who live out of Zimbabwe, begrudging them for not being here to deal with all the issues you have to deal with. It would be just as unreasonable if people in the Diaspora routinely sulked and railed against those of us who are in Zimbabwe for whatever challenges they face wherever they are.

Treating people who are in the Diaspora like second-class citizens seems to be attached to an attitude of entitlement — a sense that only those who have suffered in this country have an exclusive right to speak to the issues affecting it.

What of those who have suffered because they had to leave their homes, friends, family and everything familiar to eke out a living on foreign soils? What makes their suffering less legitimate than the suffering of those who didn’t go anywhere?

When you get the chance — as some of us have — to live abroad and far from home, you begin to appreciate that although living abroad may afford you certain comforts and innumerable advantages, it comes at a great emotional cost, one that very few would be willing to pay.

A lot of people had their hopes tied to the outcome of these elections and the sense of despair is slowly giving way to a resigned acceptance of what is.

In the weeks and months to come, some of us will begin to consider the opportunities that lie elsewhere.

If our survival and the survival of the ones we love depends on us settling down in foreign lands, we will do just that and not apologise for it.

We will call as often as we can, be on Whatsapp and Facebook, trawl the Internet websites for any scraps of news about our beloved country and we will be part of the national conversation.

Placing a gag order on the Diaspora for the great crime of being physically absent from the country when in every other respect they fret, worry, hope and pray over the fortunes of this nation, is the height of disrespect and a sign of immaturity.

Anyone who cares to ponder deeply on the worst years of this nation’s socio-economic decline will appreciate that for many Zimbabwean families, it is the Diaspora who kept them from starving to death, helped them get through school or keep shelter above their heads and clothes on their backs.

To turn our noses up at them today because we think they didn’t suffer with us when we were suffering is downright absurd. They suffered precisely because we suffered.

I could be wrong. But that’s just me. We can always agree to disagree.