Exodus continues in Zimbabwe

Bad government and grinding poverty in Zimbabwe are continuing to drive people abroad at the very time political leaders want to woo them back to take part in elections, according to a report received by a Catholic charity.

Information received by Aid to the Church in Need describes how the regime's repressive policies have prompted ongoing emigration from Zimbabwe which in turn has led to a severe shortage of qualified people, especially doctors and nurses.

The Church report, whose authors cannot be revealed for security reasons, describes how in some areas "a good number of people survive" only because of relatives abroad who send them money.

Commenting on Zimbabwe's diaspora, estimated at up to four million, the report states: "This is an injustice, this is due to bad policies which do not respect the common good.

"[It is due to the] selfishness, greed and the hunger for power of the ruling party and the leading elite which, through its intolerance, is not allowing people to use their talents and develop the country as they see fit."

"Therefore in despair – because even well qualified people may not find jobs or the work they can do is very poorly paid – they go to Australia, to the UK, to the United States, Canada, English-speaking countries around the world."

The report comes at a time when Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangerai is set to organise international rallies encouraging members of the diaspora to return to the country to vote in presidential elections next year.

Highlighting the impact of emigration on welfare support in the country, the report stated: "We are suffering a great loss of qualified people, especially in the medical services."
The report went on to accuse the UK government of luring key workers from Zimbabwe with the promise of better pay and living conditions.

It stated: "Very many of our young nurses have been [lost] to the National Health Service in the UK.

"And [the UK] has been positively recruiting people in Zimbabwe, which we consider a very dubious undertaking because these people, who have been trained in Zimbabwe and by Zimbabwe, are now working in Britain.

"The sole benefit, perhaps, is by them remitting part of their wages to their families in Zimbabwe."

The report underlines how efforts to encourage the return of exiled Zimbabweans are at odds with politicians' attitudes to the diaspora.

It states: "Some politicians are quite hostile towards those Zimbabweans who have left the country, even though indirectly the whole country benefits from them.

"They are quite hostile towards them as many of them tend to be very critical of government.
"Of course, that's why they are leaving and can't stand any longer the repression and oppression."

The report stressed government intolerance to criticism – although the regime publicly disavows violent reprisals.

The report stated: "Any attempt at criticism of the ruling party or those who are responsible for the economic misery of the people can lead to nasty retribution and acts of revenge by the party.

"For instance if you read out a critical pastoral letter in Church this may be revenged by the party and may lead to violent assaults on either priests or otherwise lay people in the rural areas.

"Very often the priest is not there, the people have their own liturgies of the Word on Sundays when there is no Mass, so lay leaders may also get in the firing line."

The report went on: "In Zimbabwe itself, people continue to live in fear and this also is felt within the Church."

It described how the regime reacted badly to a June 2012 pastoral letter from Catholic Bishops of Zimbabwe stating their hope for a return of exiled Zimbabweans but acknowledging the many problems discouraging them from coming back.

The report stated: "The government was not very happy about the letter but it didn't lead to any repressive action."

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