Saturday, June 24, 2017

Zim’s silver lining is its skilled workforce

The Bornwell Chakaodza column  The Standard June 18 to 24 2017

By Rev Dr Levee Kadenge
Most African countries thought that attaining independence meant total freedom and enjoyment the bounty of our unlimited resources across the continent. But the reality on the ground is that since we started ruling ourselves, we have faced challenges that range from those created from outside and those that we generated ourselves.  Zimbabwe has not been an exception.

As we are aware, each African country has been unique in how they forged ahead under very difficult circumstances.  Amidst the teething and perennial problems of Africa, there are people who will without hesitation, claim that they have enjoyed it from day one of independence up to now. 

On the other hand, there are those who have never enjoyed the benefits of the freedom except in name only.  Some of our leaders have been so cruel to their kith and kin simply because they differed with the political systems that they put in place. It became a crime to have a different opinion, let alone to belong to an opposing party.  The brutality that was employed left so many losing limb and life.

Those who have dared to think differently from the ruling elite, had it tough from inception.  Most ruling parties have seen it as their sole right to govern and have no room for outsiders, as it were, to have a chance to share in the governing of their countries. Consolidation of power became the desired route for our leaders who have left no stone unturned to maintain their grip on power. 

We see this even in Zimbabwe that soon after independence when Zipra forces were not satisfied with some issues and Zanla seeing this as unwarranted disobedience there were clashes in Entumbane which ended with killings and protracted fighting which culminated in the  Gukurahundi debacle in the greater part of the 1980s that saw the demise of more than 20 000 souls in Matebeleland and Midlands provinces, that our president admitted that “it was a moment of madness.”

 Many locals started leaving the country in droves to the safety of South Africa. Even though this part of the country has always exported labour down south but because of the harsh conditions that were created by the fighting, the numbers went up as even those who had jobs left for safety reasons.

For survival, people on Matabeleland devised a way of crossing the crocodile invested Limpopo river and heavily guarded South African boarder. The locals came up with a plan called dabulaphu (tear up). This is a process of crossing the border without formal documents.  This was done as a last resort because looking for documents would take time yet someone would be desperate to leave the distressing situation. Our leaders made us criminals right from the word go.

The writer was a minister/pastor at a place called Ndolwane (1982 -84} and was a witness of the brutalities that left homes and villages decimated in unprecedented proportions. Such was the situation that prompted the author to assess the prevailing situation that was deteriorating by the day.  For the first time we were all forced to buy party political membership cards. Without the card you were not safe, it was your passport to travel. Such was the intolerance that was shown to the citizenry.

The second election of 1985 saw many Zimbabweans not thinking twice about leaving the country for safety abroad. And now it was not only South Africa, but also to other parts of the world. To date Zimbabweans of all professions which number over three to five million have found refuge in almost around the world. It became acute each time elections were held, sons and daughters of Zimbabwe who could make it found themselves leaving this country in droves.

Now it was a questions of professionals and none professionals leaving, it was like everyone who could make it dared to venture the diaspora way.  The coming of a formidable opposition in 1999 opened a Pandora’s box as it were.  Those Zimbabweans who were affiliating to opposition politics were targets. The only alternative was to leave their homeland for the unknown.  Among the above group were both the so-called economic and political refugees. Most of these people did not choose to leave voluntarily.  They were forced by the conditions they found themselves in to move out.  Such removals, most of them involuntarily, have not been rose all the time.  Homes and families have been destroyed by distances that were created when one or some members of the families were separated.  These disruptions and the consequences thereof will be subject of the following instalments.

The good thing that we want to pick on today is the exposure that Zimbabweans who left this country could not have had in their lives had it not been of the disruptive conditions that were created by the intolerable attitude of the powers that be that obtained at their time of leaving. The lucky ones went as families while the majority seem to have not been so fortunate.

In South Africa there has been a record inflow of engineers and other technocrats in most of their city councils with some becoming chief city and town engineers dotted across the country. 
Across the border most of those that have left this country have not forgotten their families.  They have looked back in big ways. They have sent remittances from time to time and this nation has benefitted from such.

God willing, one of these days when sense knocks on our doors all these who have had such an exposure will be some of the assets who have had another experience which will be put to use in a big way when they eventually come back.  It is not the intention of the author to project an idea that the best is for them to come back.  At the same time I am not saying they should not come home. 

When the biblical Joseph who was sold by his brothers finally became prime minister in Egypt he did not revenge them, instead he was very magnanimous when he said to them, “But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50 vs 20).  It is our prayer that all Zimbabweans who have found themselves displaced may be positive towards their nation. 

Those with ears let them hear!

By Rev Dr Levee Kadenge

*As The Standard celebrates 20 years, it pays tribute to the late Bornwell Chakaodza who was editor of the paper from 2002 to 2005.

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