Study belies myth Zimbabwe is kept afloat by diaspora cash

AGAINST the general belief that Zimbabweans in exile were keeping their country afloat, a study in the southern Matabeleland region has found that most families with members living outside the country received no money and barely any meaningful food items last year.

Conducted earlier this year, the study by Solidarity Peace Trust (SPT), says 76% of those with family in the diaspora did not get any money sent to them last year.

The little money sent home failed to alleviate the already dire food situation, especially among the rural poor.

Many of those who sent any money at all remitted less than R100. Goodies sent home were as little as 2kg of sugar often only at Christmas time. Only 18% of the families with a member in the diaspora received the equivalent of R100 a month last year.

Before the demise of the Zimbabwean dollar, more goods than cash were sent home, but the research found that 51% of families with a member in the diaspora did not receive any goods at all last year.

It says the low remittances may have been due to the disruptive effect of the xenophobic attacks in SA last year, and the saturation of the job market in SA.

The younger the exiles who ironically were the largest group among those who left the country the less likely they were to send anything home.

Were not seeing remittances on a grand scale, said SPT director Shari Eppel at the release of the research findings in Johannesburg yesterday.

She said many in Zimbabwe had a negative perception of diasporisation. They associated it with the bodies of relatives coming home to be buried, and experienced it as lack of labour to till the fields and failed relationships.

While, historically, southern Zimbabwe had strong labour ties with SA, the rate of migration had shot up since the end of 2007.

Among the 142 families in the target group, the study found a 100- fold increase in diasporisation between 1990 and 2000 with SA as the main destination.

In another report, the SPT warns that failure by the international community to engage with the unity government forged in February could threaten the fragile state, whose collapse would lead to another round of violence and repression.

SPT research director Brian Raftopoulos said a key question was at what point sanctions which were preventing major international finance institutions from supporting Zimbabwe should be removed.

He said there was a need for Zimbabwe to have its own discussion on the issue, which to date had been largely externally driven.

Business Day (SA)

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