We are the Zimbabwean diaspora

A few weeks ago, The Zimbabwean Editor invited us to give further input on the debate about whether Zimbabweans abroad should be called the diaspora or simply, the exiled community. I wish to state in no uncertain terms that there is in essence, a very thin dividing line between the two concepts. Th

e difference is so difficult sometimes, so much that it can be virtually impossible to extricate the two from each other.

Exile is to a greater extent a form of punishment. It means to be away from one’s home (i.e. city, state or country) while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened by prison or death upon return.

Exile thus arises in a situation where an individual or group of people is forced to flee their original homeland due to continual threat to their peace and livelihood. In the process, there is always the constant fear of victimization from an apposite and much more powerful force. This is normally due to their political or religious beliefs.

On the other hand, the diaspora is a slightly different concept altogether. It means a much more permanent community that is based abroad. The diaspora in most instances have a choice to return home after a serious conflict has been resolved. However they decide to stay on in the country of their exile and regard it as their homeland. The diaspora community normally visits their original homeland but with no intention to return there at all. They feel happier staying abroad on a more permanent level.

The word diaspora is originally derived from the Hellenic diction in which in Greek, it means “scattering” or “dispersion.” The term diaspora (Greek, a scattering or sowing of seeds) is used (without capitalization) to refer to any people or ethnic population forced or induced to leave their traditional ethnic homelands, being dispersed throughout other parts of the world, and the ensuing developments in their dispersal and culture.

It has almost always for hundreds of years been used to refer to the Jewish communities scattered all over the world from their homeland by Roman authorities after the Jewish revolt between 66 and 70 CE. The word has also been used to refer to the communities of Jews living in foreign lands during their exile.

The most famous diaspora communities in human history apart from the Jews are the Greeks, Chinese and Indians. These have managed to spread their presence and cultural influence all over the planet. Almost every country in the world today in the world has one of these diaspora communities as part of their national rainbow.

Let me hasten to add that another special diaspora community has been that of Africans based outside the continent. These are mainly descendants of those who experienced the horrors of slavery and colonialism. That community has also been joined by another more recent group that has been drawn from conflict riddled countries in post independence Africa.

Therein lies the point about the Zimbabwean situation. In the past 25 years, a lot of people have left the country due to various socio-economic and political reasons. However, it is now common cause that since the late 1990s, a new and much bigger wave of displaced Zimbabweans has developed.

Even more critically, most of them belong to the younger generation who lost faith in the geriatric nature of the Zimbabwean political anatomy. Most of them were born after 1965 or so. A whole generation is being wiped out of the country’s future and destiny.

Most of these people have no specific thing that can bring them back home sooner or later. They have become so pessimistic about their future prospects in Zimbabwe, so much that they will only return there for some short visits. Some of course, hope to resettle in Zimbabwe when the political situation improves. But when that will happen, God knows.

In fact, experiences of other countries like DRC, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya, among others clearly show that most that left these countries over the decades of political conflict are still yet to return home.

It is thus absurd for one to expect the four million plus Zimbabweans now based outside the country to return en masse someday. That in my humble opinion is asking for more than a lot from them. Indeed, some will return but most of them will never re-settle in the country forever.

The current political situation in Zimbabwe from both a Zanu and oppositional politics point of view clearly reveals that the crisis in Zimbabwe is far from over. Such a situation simply means that the pessimism against ever returning home will only harden for most of the Zimbabweans living abroad. The stay away from home is likely to be much longer than originally anticipated.

So to talk about exile is simply not taking a serious look at the reality we all have to face. The truth we all have to face is that whichever way we may look at it, we are not just in exile but the Zimbabwean diaspora!

Post published in: Opinions

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