Plans to allow Diaspora vote

diasporaHARARE Zimbabweans based in the Diaspora may soon be allowed to hold dual citizenship and have their voting rights restored as part of an elaborate plan mooted by the Harare authorities to entice its nationals abroad to invest in the countrys economic revival, The Zimbabwean On Sunday learnt last week.

The proposal is contained in a draft Medium Term Plan seen by this newspaper last week which is currently under discussion by the coalition government and developed by the Ministry of Economic Planning. If the plan gets the nod, Zimbabweans living abroad who have attained foreign citizenship would be allowed to hold dual citizenship and invited to invest in their home country.

Special investment incentives would be put in place to entice the Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to contribute to the countrys economic turnaround programme. The plan would also see the more than four million disenfranchised Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora having their voting rights restored to enable them to participate in the countrys socio-political development.

The country can benefit immensely from remittances and skills transfer from Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, read part of the 212-page Medium Term Plan to be launched in 2010.

The plan would see the formalisation of contacts between the Diasporas and government through Diaspora engagement processes. An estimated four million Zimbabweans or a third of the countrys 12 million population are living outside the country after fleeing home because of economic hardships and political repression. President Robert Mugabes government has in previous elections denied the exiles most of who are believed to support the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change the opportunity to vote saying it did not have the resources to enable all Zimbabweans spread across the globe to vote.

Only Zimbabweans posted abroad on government duty have been able to vote by post in previous elections. For the past decade, the country witnessed an unprecedented and

crippling flight of skilled professionals across all sectors of the economy. Skill areas affected included doctors, nurses, teachers, university lecturers, engineering, surveying, veterinary as well as forensic sciences.

This has resulted in the near collapse of social service delivery while industry has also witnessed skills flight of artisans and other qualified personnel. The main challenge facing the country is to retain the skills that are currently in the country as well as attract those that are now domiciled abroad to ensure that they contribute to the countrys development process.

Remittances from the Diasporas have propped up the troubled Zimbabwean economy since the turn of the century, contributing about 7.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product by 2007.

There are also plans to expedite reforms of the banking sector to build lost confidence and make it easy and cost-effective for remittances through the formal banking sector. Currently remittances are channelled through international money transfer agencies such as Western Union and Money Gram.

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