Just under a fortnight ago, Zambian President Michael Sata launched a scathing attack on Zambian nationals working in Botswana, advising them to return home.
The language used was harsh, insulting and undiplomatic to say the least, but the question is, was Sata right?
The newly elected leader accused Zambians of working to develop Botswana at the expense of Zambia, he seemed livid that he was being asked to officiate at the opening of a school that was of a lesser standard than one in his homeland and urged the diasporans to return home for the growth of their nation.
I asked a few friends what they thought about the Zambian leader’s statement and the responses varied from “those were the rumblings of a senile old man” to, he was right and that as Africans we need someone to tell us such home truths once in a while.
Being a Zimbabwean I have witnessed a wholesale flight of skills in the past decade and our loss in human capital can never be quantified.
Recently I was in South Africa attending a forum on trade policy and I was shocked at the number of Zimbabweans holding lofty positions in the trade sector. What miffed me most was when they would constantly refer to themselves as South Africans, and I thought to myself, imagine if we had such brains back home. They spoke glowingly of the policies that they would lobby the South African government to adopt and what they had done in advancing the country’s stature as the gateway for Africa. I do not begrudge them that they went to South Africa to better their lives, that they saw better opportunities and took them. I would have probably done the same and I will probably do it given a chance.
But I think it’s time for us to take stock of ourselves as a country, stop hounding out the best brains we have and above all nurture what we have still in the country.No doubt a huge proportion of the people outside our borders would love to return, but the prospect of a downgrade in their living standards is too ghastly to contemplate. Power, water, cash shortages, you name it are the order of the day.
But these guys in the diasporans have the brains and the capacity to lift us out of our quagmire. I am reminded of an old speech by John Kennedy, when he said “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”.
I am a romantic and an idealist, yes. But I believe it can be done. The diasporans with their wealth of knowledge and experience can come back and help build some kind of Utopia here. Some will blame politics, but they can come and influence the politics here, they have lived in more democratic countries and have an understanding of life outside. I believe if they return, it will be akin to taking one step back and two steps forward and we will benefit as a nation.
While Sata could have fashioned his statement in a more diplomatic manner, I believe the King Cobra had a valid point. It’s time we did something for our country.