He has attacked and heaped scorn on them for allegedly deserting him and their home country to go and become ‘British Bottom Cleaners’, a contemptuous reference to the many Zimbabweans working as support and care workers for the elderly in the United Kingdom.
Exiled Zimbabweans were also effectively labelled traitors by President Robert Mugabe for allegedly supporting the opposition which he claimed to be in the pay of western imperialists supposedly keen to recolonize the country.
Now Mugabe is appealing to the huge Zimbabwe Diaspora to help rebuild their battered country, apparently forced by the dire economic situation to heed central bank governor John Mangudya’s January warning that “this sector is too important to ignore.”
Speaking to Zimbabweans based in Ethiopia Monday while on one of his numerous foreign trips, Mugabe said other countries had benefited immensely from their diasporans.
“Ethiopia has managed to do a lot of construction and improvement because a lot of its people are in the Diaspora,” he said.
“It is also happening in other countries like Cape Verde Islands and I want to urge our people to come together.”
Notoriously unforgiving of those he accuses of betraying him, Mugabe now says even those previously treacherous MDC-T supporters are welcome to help.
“A Zimbabwean is a Zimbabwean whether Zanu-PF or MDC. This is one area we cannot be separated from each other; an area where we are Zimbabweans together,” he said.
Mugabe on exiled Zimbabweans
The change of heart is not difficult to understand.
Aged a prime 91 and struggling with poor health, Mugabe is clearly on the legacy lap of his lengthy political career.
He would be anxious to leave behind a country on an even keel – a nation at peace with itself; the economy flourishing and creating opportunities for its citizens.
But so far it’s going all wrong for the veteran leader who was re-elected for another five year term in 2013 promising to create at least two million new jobs. And he is running out of time to set things right.
Since the 2013 vote, thousands of jobs have been lost as companies are forced to shut down and the government’s ZimAsset economic blue-print fails to make an impact due to lack of funding despite promises of help from Beijing.
However, among the few groups sending money to the country in significant amounts are Zimbabweans living abroad.
Diaspora too important to ignore … RBZ boss John Mangudya
“Diaspora remittances remain a critical source of liquidity in the market,” said central bank governor John Mangudya last year.
In his January 2015 monetary policy statement, Mangudya said: “This sector is too important to ignore.
“The Reserve Bank estimates that Diaspora remittances into the country currently stand at around US$1.7 billion and gravitating towards US$2 billion (translating to above 50% of exports) per year, with around 50% 49 (US$840 million in 2014 and US$790 million in 2013) coming through local formal banking channels …
“With around 50% (US$840 million in 2014 and US$790 million in 2013) coming through local formal banking channels.”
He added: “Other countries’ experience with their Diasporans have shown that the Diaspora is a key sector in economic development.
“A number of African countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt to mention a few, have immensely benefited from Diaspora resources just the way other countries like India, China, Israel, etc have benefited.”
More than a million Zimbabweans are said to have left the country over the last 15 years to escape a biting economic crisis which many blame on President Mugabe’s three-decade-long rule.
Most settled in South Africa as well as regional countries such as Botswana while others moved overseas to countries such as Australia, Britain, Canada, the United States as well as New Zealand.
Remittances from the diaspora helped prevent the complete collapse of the economy during a crisis lasting nearly a decade as exiled Zimbabweans sent money home to help struggling families.
Mugabe denies responsibility for the country’s economic woe, blaming sanctions imposed, he claims, at the behest of former coloniser Britain which was supposedly enraged by his land reforms.