Country's lost professionals adopt wait and see' attitude

Skilled people vital to economic revival

Zimbabwean professionals working in South Africa say that they are not yet ready to go back home, despite the national unity government formed between Robert Mugabe and the two factions of the Movement for Dem

During interviews in Johannesburg this week, most exiles said that they
would instead adopt a wait and see' attitude, adding that they would
only return to Zimbabwe if standards matched what they were currently

We have gone through a lot for us to be where we are at the moment and
for me just to run back home because of an agreement does not make
sense, said Siphephile Ndlovu, who teaches at a local private school.
Let them fix the mess first, then maybe I will consider returning.

Zimbabwe has lost thousands of qualified personnel, including teachers,
doctors and engineers, in recent years. Their return is seen as key to
the revival of the country's battered economy.

Babongile Ndlovu, a book-keeper at a local supermarket, said it would
take a long time before salaries and other benefits they enjoyed in
South Africa would be made available in Zimbabwe, so he was not even
considering returning home.

As far as I am concerned, the salaries they can pay is limited and
cannot meet my needs. Life is till expensive despite people being paid
in foreign currency, he said.

Even non-professionals said it was better to stay put here until they felt it was safer.

What if six months down the line, the deal collapses. I have to begin
the agony of making my way back, No I will stay here, said Alfred
Ngwenya, a street vendor.

Hillary Kundishora, a scholar of strategic management, said in a report
that Zimbabwe could not miss the opportunities of harnessing the skills
of people in the diaspora if it was to meet its development agenda.

A post-crisis era should encourage the returnees to return back to
their motherland and invest in their country through various
initiatives, such as creating high interest foreign currency bonds
specifically for the diaspora, and tax exemptions for those bringing
industrial equipment and machinery – a scheme that paid dividends in
China and Pakistan.

He said encouraging entrepreneurship should be a priority because
people in the diaspora had the advantage of huge savings in comparison
with locals. Their other advantages were a competitive edge and
exposure to advanced technologies.

Above all, we should secure an economy which values private property
rights (land ownership titles should become a market commodity) through
a court protection underpinned by an independent judiciary, [people in
the diaspora] must be presented as compatriots, and a free contestation
of opinions must prevail as a market of ideas, he said.

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