Trust and the Zimbabwean diaspora: a case study of the West Midlands County, England

Felix Tombindo and Simbarashe Gukurume


It is a Saturday afternoon, approximately six o’clock, in Coventry in West Midlands County in England (United Kingdom), and one of the authors is undertaking research on the Zimbabwean diaspora. He meets sekuru (uncle) who introduces him to muzukuru (the niece of sekuru). The author details to sekuru the reason for his visit, and sekuru relays this to muzukuru. She - muzukuru - picks up two phrases from sekuru's explanation: “sending money back home” and “investing back home”. Her overall response: “You want to know whether I send money back home or have investments in Zimbabwe? Arc you [state president] Mnan-gagwa’s supporter? Have you been sent by Mnangagwa?”. Her query represents what most participants in this study share - a deep distrust of the Zimbabwean government especially with respect to money. The distrust is not unfounded, given the acrimonious relationship between the Zimbabwean government and its diaspora over the past two decades. Yet, despite this distrust, most Zimbabwean diaspora members continue to be attached to Zimbabwe through cash remittances and, in some cases, through individual and group business ventures, skills transfer initiatives and charity work.

Trust is an under-explored theme in the literature on diaspora-led development in Zimbabwe. Yet it permeates relationships between diaspora members and their non-migrant relatives; between the diaspora and the Zimbabwean government; and amongst the diaspora members. Burgeoning Zimbabwe diaspora investment groups and individual investor companies have sought to contribute to the reconstruction process in the wake of Zimbabwe’s so-called new political dispensation after the coup of November 2017. Their success will largely depend on the restoration of a substantial level of trust and confidence amongst all the stakeholders involved and not just between the Zimbabwean government and the diaspora.

Focusing on Zimbabweans in England’s West Midlands County, this chapter investigates the multifaceted factors that shape the perspectives and attitudes of the Zimbabwean diaspora towards Zimbabwe’s reconstruction in the post-Mugabc era. We draw on a case study of two emerging diaspora groups, as well as stories of the lived experiences of individual diaspora members regarding investing in and contributing to Zimbabwe’s reconstruction process.


For the past two decades, Zimbabwe has faced unprecedented economic, social and political challenges, which culminated in mass emigration by Zimbabweans to different countries within and outside Africa. Migration out of Zimbabwe predates the year 2000, but this chapter mainly focuses on the period after 2000. The Zimbabwean diaspora mainly consists of those who emigrated in the 1990s when the economy showed signs of decline, and especially later in the early 2000s when Zimbabwe encountered an increased rate of migration driven by economic and political crises (Bloch 2008). Many Zimbabweans moved to neighbouring countries particularly South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia, while others moved out to Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and Asia.

In Europe, the main destination for Zimbabweans is the United Kingdom (UK). Many Zimbabweans in the UK arc employed in low paying industries especially where there arc fewer security checks. For instance, McGregor (2007) noted that many Zimbabweans joined the “British Bottom Cleaners” in the country’s care industry. The result is that many earn just enough for survival and may have little disposable income to invest or remit back to Zimbabwe. Nevertheless, Zimbabwean international migrants have provided an important safety net for non-migrants by sending remittances to family members back home (Ham-mar 2014). For Zimbabwe, the diaspora has mainly helped to sustain non-migrant family members in the face oflivelihood vulnerability and economic decline. The unabated economic decline in Zimbabwe has resulted in a pronounced informalisation oflivelihood strategics (Jones 2010). Zimbabweans have resorted to kukiya kiya or kujingirisa (“multiple forms of making do”) (Jones 2010:285; Gukurumc 2019:280) which have replaced formal ways oflivelihood construction.

The Zimbabwean diaspora is not a homogenous group with similar lived experiences and aspirations. Every diasporic community has heterogeneous experiences such that classifying them in discrete categories misses the complexity of their everyday experiences and interests (Mohan and Zack-Williams 2002). For instance, McGregor and Pasura (2010) argue that that the mere presence of migrants in a destination country docs not directly mean they all want to participate in the reconstruction process, as evidenced by some members of the Zimbabwean diaspora who refuse to be considered as agents of Zimbabwe’s development. McGregor and Pasura (2010) also note that the interests of the Zimbabwean diaspora to engage in reconstruction depend on their immigration status, with settled professionals more likely to tolerate talk of a programme of return to Zimbabwe than asylum seekers. Additionally, there arc no clear boundaries regarding what constitutes the diaspora and which groups must be targeted for development; and this calls for a broader definition of “diaspora” that includes all African migrants who maintain contact with Africa, regardless of which continent they arc based in (Bakewcll 2008). The African Union defines the African diaspora as those who arc willing to take part in the building of the African continent (Crush 2011). It is the idea of maintaining contact with country of origin that we consider in our discussion of the Zimbabwean diaspora in this chapter.

The government of Zimbabwe has grappled with reconstruction and development questions for a long time with very little if any success. It previously tried to “developmentalise” (McGregor and Pasura 2010) the diaspora by incorporating them into the reconstruction process, but these efforts failed mainly due to political factors, especially Mugabe’s refusal to relinquish power (McGregor and Pasura 2010; Muzondidya 2011). As well, the political and economic conditions have remained fragile (Muzondidya 2011; Gukurumc 2015; Chikanda and Crush 2018), resulting in a substantially weak environment for diaspora-led investment. An unpredictable Zimbabwean market makes it risky for the diaspora to invest. It is thus critical that political and economic stability be addressed first before the country can substantially harness the human and material capital of its diaspora (Muzondidya 2011).

A number of studies (McGregor 2007; Bloch 2008; Mbiba 2012; Magunha ct al. 2009; Maphosa 2007) have explored the survival strategics of members of the Zimbabwean diaspora as they tried to settle and find opportunities in their host countries. However, only a few (McGregor and Pasura 2010; Muzondidya 2011) have offered an in-depth exploration of Zimbabwean diaspora’s perspectives on reconstruction and development beyond family level remittances. These few studies mainly focused on the government’s engagement with the diaspora.

We seek to contribute to existing literature by looking at the lived experiences of the Zimbabwean diaspora regarding investing, volunteering, skills transfer and other diaspora-led initiatives in Zimbabwe. In doing so, our study adds to debates on the role of the diaspora in Zimbabwe’s development process and diaspora-led development more broadly. Focusing on two emerging Zimbabwean diaspora groups - Farmvest.Biz and the Zimbabwean Diaspora Investment Group (ZiDIG) -the study offers insights into an area which hitherto has been underexplorcd amongst scholars of Zimbabwe, namely, diaspora-led development through organised remittances.

ZiDIG and Farmvest.Biz are investment groups run by UK-based businesspeople. ZiDIG was launched in 2017 and seeks to match Zimbabwe based entrepreneurs with potential investors. At the time of the study, it claimed to have reached a memorandum of understanding with the Zimbabwean government to run business projects in a number of areas including mining, building university accommodation and a hotel project. Farmvest.Biz is an agricultural investment platform that helps Zimbabweans to invest in various areas in the agricultural value chain, from farms to retail outlets. In a nutshell, ZiDIG and Farmvest.Biz were created to help pull resources together and make an impact on development in Zimbabwe.

Research methods

We conducted 16 in-depth interviews, including face-to-face (seven), Skype (two) and telephone (seven) interviews, each lasting between forty minutes and one and half hours. The telephone interview is criticised in qualitative research for the absence of face-to-face contact that is vital for generating rich data through rapport and direct encounter (Irvine ct al. 2013). However, it is timesaving and provides greater anonymity when conducted with complete strangers. For us, it allowed greater flexibility and adaptability for participants with tight work shifts and other commitments. Of the seven telephone interviews, one was a key informant interview with a male employee from the African Foundation for Development (AFFORD) for triangulation purposes. Seven participants were female. The unequal representation regarding gender was a result of referrals and individuals’ willingness to participate.

Gender and marital status have the potential to influence remitting behaviour (Bloch 2008) especially amongst UK based Zimbabweans where women constitute the majority of the population. The demand for staff in UK’s healthcare industry saw many female Zimbabweans migrating to the UK, and the future of the Zimbabwean diaspora will be significantly determined by women (Mbiba 2012). For our study, save for one participant, all participants were married, with their spouses and children in the UK. Only one of the married participants had her children and husband in Zimbabwe. The length of stay in the UK ranged between 6 and 23 years. On average, most participants reported having moved to the UK between 2000 and 2003, the period during which Zimbabwe’s economic and political challenges began to intensify.

Participants came from diverse professions, including law, psychotherapy, social work, finance and investments and accounting. Some were running their own firms - in the healthcare industry, in law and in accounting (three were running these). Two were entrepreneurs: one runs a coffee shop and the other runs a “Tech Business incubator and accelerator” company. One is an asylum holder engaging in casual jobs including healthcare work. Another is a retiree from the care industry and presently runs a UK-based charity that focuses on the education of street children in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwean migrants in the UK can be categorised into different categories based on their immigration status. Although the participants comprise people occupying different forms of employment, they disproportionately over represent those in better paying jobs than those in casual work.

Additionally, ZiDIG and Farmvest.Biz arc investment groups run by UK-based businesspeople. As such, they arc not representative of all the categories of Zimbabwean migrants in the UK and their perspectives do not speak to the opinions and experiences of all UK-based Zimbabwean diaspora members. However, an in-depth exploration of the nature of these groups’ and individuals’ investments adds to debates on collective remittances and individual initiatives led by similar Zimbabwean diaspora organisations and those from other countries.

Participants were recruited through purposive sampling broadly, but mainly through its subset - snowball sampling. Snowballing effectively identifies “hidden populations” such as the UK based Zimbabwean diaspora. We started by interviewing two ZiDIG members whose contacts we had in advance. From them we got referrals of especially Zimbabwean entrepreneurs based in the West Midlands. We also recruited participants through networking by attending church services with a predominantly Zimbabwean congregation in Birmingham. Two

Trust and the Zimbabwean diaspora 159 participants - one belonging to Farmvest.Biz and the other to the Diaspora Urgent Question1 programme - were accessed through social media (Facebook).

All participants were fluent Shona and English speakers and we allowed each to answer questions in the language about which they felt most comfortable. This means that Ndebclc speakers arc not represented in this study. This is one of the challenges with snowball sampling - the likelihood of getting participants from one particular group to the exclusion of others, which may mean that there is less variation in the data obtained than would have been possible with other sampling procedures. However, the exclusion of other groups of the Zimbabwean diaspora is also partly attributable to the delimitation of the study - a focus on mainly Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton. Previous studies (Mbiba 2012; McGregor and Pasura 2010) on the UK-based Zimbabwean diaspora observed that Ndebelc-spcaking Zimbabweans arc mainly concentrated in Yorkshire, especially in Leeds. No white Zimbabweans participated.

The Zimbabwean diaspora is “fractured”, and some members arc not interested in taking part in the development and construction process (McGregor and Pasura 2010). Nevertheless, all participants in this study expressed an interest in contributing to reconstruction and development in one form or another, although some were waiting for a conducive environment in Zimbabwe. This is attributable to the network of people we interviewed, since the first contacts were those belonging precisely to a group of people working towards investing in Zimbabwe. Their views can thus not be generalised to all Zimbabweans in the UK.

Broken trust and accountability

Most analyses focus on government-diaspora interactions (Bloch 2008; Muzon-didya 2011; McGregor and Pasura 2010) to the exclusion of family and kin-based trust relations and how these affect diaspora initiatives. Moreover, few if any have looked at trust amongst diasporans themselves. Defined as a positive expectation in relation to others’ behaviour (Joseph et al. 2017:168), trust significantly determines the willingness of diaspora members to contribute to Zimbabwe’s reconstruction process. The opposite equivalent of trust is distrust, and it also equally shapes the role of diaspora members in the reconstruction process though in a negative way. Trust and distrust arc all rooted in past experiences and actions that influence whether diaspora members continue investing in Zimbabwe. At a family level, studies of kin-based remittances like the hawala banking system2 (Van de Bunt 2008) argue that trust based on social ties (like ethnicity and family relations) is very fragile when the stakes arc very high, because betrayal through stealing is likely to occur (Van de Bunt 2008). To ensure that members do not steal and break the trust, other compliance-reinforcing mechanisms like ostracism from the group are applied.

The fragility of trust relations based on family ties was similarly revealed in this study, where some participants highlighted that their relations stole from them when they tried to invest in Zimbabwe and unfortunately, in the Zimbabweancase, there are no compliance-reinforcing mechanisms comparable to the hawala system. Mary narrated her case like this:

There was a time when I frequented Zimbabwe a lot from 2009 to about 2011 . . . four to five times a year. I tried to set up my business and the people I employed stole money from me. I had almost given up on Zimbabwe completely. I took a relative and he just sold my things and used the money. He was my aunt’s son. I reported him to the police, and everything just messed up my relationships with family members from the extended family ... it was terrible. I lost almost £6,000. At one point, he lied to me that he wanted to go to South Africa to order some goods for the project and I sent him some money .. . hoping that I was helping a relative.

As evidence of distrust between the diaspora and their family relations, some participants end up remitting in ways that avoid sending money directly to family relations. One UK-based entrepreneur launched a mobile phone application (Ndascnda App) that enables the diaspora to pay bills without sending money to Zimbabwe. Highlighting fears of theft, Carole explained the application's advantages in the following way:

Ndascnda App is for paying bills in Zimbabwe, running bank accounts, paying school fees, medical aid, funeral policies - whatever; you pay through that so that you do not have to send money, you just pay directly. For people who have lived in the diaspora for a long time, you will know that people steal money or prices arc inflated. With Ndascnda App, you will talk to the service provider directly, get the correct price, and pay directly to the service provider.

Strategics of providing a service instead of giving money were also found amongst one of the diaspora groups - Farmvest.Biz. Michael an entrepreneur and founder of the group explained the way they work with farming partners:

We don’t give our farming partners the actual money. We give them support by helping till the land, we will buy farm implements for them. On top of that, each of our partners is assigned an agronomist, someone who helps them deal with the best farming practices: when they should plant, how they should plant, how they should manage it, do they have any problems with [crop] diseases - generally [the agronomist] helps oversee the whole farming process. On the flip side of it, we arc going to help them market it.

In addition to those who indicated distrust amongst family relations, the government was unsurprisingly the most distrusted institution. Distrust of government institutions generates (re)actions based on suspicion and this militates against diaspora-led investments/initiatives (De Haas 2005; Brinkerhoff 2012) by “recreating past norms and behaviours of responding intcrpcrsonally within and across

Trust and the Zimbabwean diaspora 161 groups” (Joseph ct al. 2017:169). Several participants in this study confirmed this by referring to previous government-initiated schemes - especially the Homclink project - in which some diaspora members lost money. Homelink was a government-initiated scheme meant to facilitate Diaspora Direct Investment (DDI). The areas targeted for investment included property (building houses for the diaspora). It also sought to parcel out investment opportunities to the diaspora, who would then bring in DDI. Michael likewise elaborated on this:

Everything that I have done so far is through personal or family relations. Trust and transparency arc the two key issues that caused me to say, T do not really understand this’ [referring to Homclink] and I decided to not get involved. Schemes like Homclink, for instance, did not go far enough; people got scammcd, stands were sold to multiple people and people whose houses were supposed to have been built only found out there was nothing built. The legitimacy of anything the government [of Zimbabwe] sets up has to be thoroughly scrutinised.

Clearly, the Zimbabwean government lacks the requisite political trust to entice the diaspora to participate in the reconstruction process (Muzondidya 2011). As a result, Emily (who is a social worker and a ZiDIG member) indicated that it was increasingly difficult to recruit members to their group because people arc afraid of losing their money. She explained:

There is hcsitancc in terms of taking part in initiatives of this nature particularly because of the legacy that Gideon Gono3 left. He was not your typical technocrat or bank governor type. He was very ZANU-PF in terms of his outlook, way of doing things and occasional statements. There are those legacy issues and when anything comes out of Zimbabwe, people quickly jump to these conclusions that it’s another attempted scam.

For some who arc still keen to contribute to reconstruction but suspicious of the government, they bypassed the government in matters to do with money. This was highlighted by muzukuru (a healthcare retiree), who was quoted at the beginning of this chapter. She launched a charity for street children in May 2018 in collaboration with some colleagues. Her charity chose to provide the basic needs of street children directly to the intended beneficiaries without the involvement of the government. She noted:

If I take the money to Zimbabwe, it won’t be under my control. The government can easily wake up tomorrow and say, ‘we have done this or that’. Having that in mind, I knew that the children that we are helping may not end up being the beneficiaries of the money. You are talking of development? You don't develop when any money that comes in is taken by those in power. We want to help vulnerable children and we arc going to make sure that they will not be deprived by the government.

A slightly different perspective but related to trust is that of accountability and transparency. In order for diaspora investment to make an impact in the country of origin, there is undoubtedly a need for collaboration of efforts from diverse stakeholders, something which explains the need for an associative network in the home country (Lacomba and Cloqucl 2014) to support the efforts of the diaspora. Through an example of small-scale family-level interactions, Moses, who practices as a psychotherapist, highlighted the importance of accountability and transparency for diaspora initiatives:

The other problem that exists in Zimbabwe is a lack of accountability and transparency. This is the biggest problem that we have as a country. Even in families, when you arc discussing family events, people arc not as open to say, ‘Oh, for this event, we need USD$50,00 and we have got USD$20,00. Could you please help with USD$30,00?’ You do not get a breakdown of things in that way. Maybe you might be told that things cost so much, which, as I have said, is often inflated already. When you ask to say, ‘Okay, that is interesting, what do you have?’ - such questions arc never really answered. There is lack of openness in that regard, even in business. I have done a bit of business at home - it is very difficult to actually do . . . when there is no accountability.

The result of distrust, combined with the absence of accountability and transparency, is that efforts arc very fragmented instead of a coordination of efforts amongst the diaspora, the government and amongst family relations. Related to these trust issues is the character of the institutional environment in Zimbabwe.

Institutional bottlenecks and corruption

Studies on the Zimbabwean diaspora and development (Muzondidya 2011; Mbiba 2012; McGregor and Pasura 2010) reveal the inadequacies of the government’s diaspora policy. In countries where the diaspora has impacted development successfully, it is partly because of incentives by homeland governments that encourage diaspora participation (Brinkerhoff 2012; Davies 2007). African countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal are good examples. For Zimbabwe, there is no coherent diaspora policy and the government must move beyond general claims that they see the diaspora as important partners in the reconstruction process (Muzondidya 2011). In fact, the Zimbabwean government politicises the notion of asylum seeking to the extent that citizens seeking asylum in Britain arc viewed with suspicion and often framed as enemies of the state.

Cecilia raised concerns regarding the willingness of the government to move beyond rhetoric. She highlighted a lack of adequate research and effort by the government to create a conducive environment for business:

This year, a group of Zimbabweans went to Zimbabwe. They wanted to put light rail between Chitungwiza and Harare because it has been talked about a lot. But a serious problem came up, including the question: ‘how many people commute between Harare and Chitungwiza?’ [The answer]: ‘Haa, they arc plenty! There are lots of people! Everyone in Chitungwiza works in Harare’. There is no figure. Nobody knows how many people commute between Harare and Chitungwiza. We have people in Zimbabwe who say - if I can refer to the ongoing mantra - ‘Oh Zimbabwe is open for business. Oh, Zimbabwe is endowed with minerals. Oh, we arc the 5th largest . . .’. But what does it mean to say that? Can somebody decide based on that? What level of investment is going into research and preliminary explorations so that we have got a proper starting point?

Thus, a lack of government efforts at research and policy, alongside a lack of government incentives that can promote the willingness of the diaspora to invest, was a crucial factor for the Zimbabwean diaspora.

In this context, Leonard explained his disappointment at the lack of institutional support from the government in the following way:

There arc no tax-breaks; there is no support from the councils to say,

“What you arc doing is bringing employment into our country so, maybe for the next year or two we arc going to give you a concession, so you can establish”. All those things arc what help businesses to grow. Businesses don't just run on their own. There has to be concessions, there has to be safety, there has to be guides, and there has to be tax-breaks - one of the most important ones - so that you can root up your business. Once it’s running properly and self-sustaining then you can start looking at taxes. But without those things, businesses won’t survive.

Added to the lack of incentives is the arduous process of obtaining a licence for a business in Zimbabwe which deters willing investors. This concurs with Muzon-didya’s (2011) observation that getting licenced in Zimbabwe takes a very long time, ranging from six months to a year or more. Allan, an entrepreneur based in Wolverhampton, claimed that he lost 6 months’ worth of rental payments while trying to obtain a licence for his business in 2013. This led him to decide to come back to the UK, even though he had left for Zimbabwe in 2013 to re-settle there permanently:

Six months of paying rent on a property without income is not a joke ... I was getting nothing whatsoever while paying rent. I also needed daily allowances to survive on, and soon I realised that it was not sustainable. By the time you get your licensing and everything else you cannot even function because you are scaled to the bottom. I had to come back to the drawing board to say, ‘Okay, maybe I need to look at how I can buy my own building’. If I get my own building, I will not have to worry about paying rent. I will just have the rates that I will have to pay. Even if it’s going to take me two years to wait for the license, I am not going to be particularly worried.

The time taken to obtain a licence differs from one country to another. This partly explains why the diaspora have had different impacts in different countries. The differences in African states call for a context-specific analysis regarding diaspora-led development (Davies 2007). The context specificity of African countries was noted by Paul from AFFORD who explained that, in his experience of working with African diaspora groups that received funding from AFFORD, some struggled to get licensing in the country of origin. He highlighted country differences that validate the need for context specificity:

Some of the local partners [for African diaspora groups that entered the funding competition by AFFORD] have really struggled to provide documents of a detailed proof of registration [for their respective businesses/projccts in the country of origin]. It depends on the country. For some, like Rwanda, you can register your business within 24 hours. In Nigeria, it takes 28 days unless you know the system. So, it is challenging for some of the local partners to produce some of this information.

In addition to these delays in getting licenced, there is institutional corruption associated with doing business in Zimbabwe. Corruption is one of the factors that hinder diaspora participation in the reconstruction process (Brinkerhoff 2012; De Haas 2005). A detailed perspective on corruption was given by Moses, who narrated the difficulties he encountered when he tried to start a business in Zimbabwe:

I had to pay fees/rates that didn't help my business. I was running a business for about a year or two. In the first year, you have got your ZIMRA [Zimbabwe Revenue Authority] wanting money off you, you have got - what are these guys called if they still exist - the youth empowerment schemes - they want money from you; you have got the licensing boards wanting money from you, you have got your council also wanting money from you. How can all these entities want money from me before I even start trading?

Findings also demonstrate that the informalisation of the country’s economy has resulted in corrupt practices, making it difficult for Zimbabweans coming from wealthier countries such as the UK, especially after so many years away, to get used to this way of doing business. John blamed the informal character of Zimbabwe’s economy, describing it in a way that is reminiscent of Jones’s (2010) analysis of the economy in Zimbabwe, in which people resort to “zigzag” deals including bribes, thereby putting on hold existing moral parameters as they struggle for survival. He said:

People have gone through a very tough period for a very long time. Most of them believe that they can make money without working . . . deception is rampant - the youth do not know what being formally employed means. What they know is lying, doing short cut deals and so forth. It is going to take a bit of time for us to get back to the level of professionalism and transparency that we had before 2000 and make business viable again in Zimbabwe.

The prevailing economic and political conditions in Zimbabwe also substantially weaken the potential for diaspora involvement in Zimbabwean development (Chi-kanda and Crush 2018). Zimbabwe is currently facing a severe liquidity crisis which has created a less attractive environment for most diaspora people. Amos, a lecturer at one of the universities in the West Midlands County, highlighted not only the liquidity crisis but also corruption. He indicated:

It is very difficult to run a business in an environment that is not safe. By that, I mean you can’t run a business without cash flow. You need cash flow, you need to be able to bank your money, you need to be able to get your money when you need it, you also need to be able to trade freely without worrying about who is going to want what. I have had a couple of businesses run, and you have got to bribe the police to an extent.

In sum, the perspectives of the Zimbabwean diaspora on reconstruction and development arc premised on a number of different but related factors. For the Zimbabwean diaspora to fully participate in the reconstruction process, it will take coordinated efforts not only from the government of Zimbabwe but also a mending of trust relations amongst the diaspora members and between diaspora members and their family relations. An associative network supporting diaspora initiatives in the home country (Lacomba and Cloqucl 2014) is also necessary.


The perspectives and attitudes of the Zimbabwean diaspora regarding reconstruction and development, as detailed in this chapter, have a broader relevance to debates on diaspora-led development. Trust is a very crucial factor determining the nature and involvement of the Zimbabwean diaspora in the reconstruction process. Trust (and distrust) are central to configuring everyday life experiences and practices, as well as to intersubjective relationships between individuals and groups, and trust needs to be developed and forged, often explicitly. If distrust exists, it generates uncooperative behaviour which transcends national borders and even undercuts long-standing familial relationships.

Amongst the Zimbabwean diaspora, trust and distrust arc found across all levels of social interaction - between non-migrant family members and their diaspora relations; between the government and its diaspora; and amongst diaspora members themselves. Of importance arc shared and shattered histories, as well as forms and degrees of familiarity and contempt, existing between the diaspora and non-migrant family members, the diaspora and the Zimbabwean government and amongst the diaspora themselves. In all these contexts, everyday memories and reconstructions of what happened in the past tend to condition whether or not the diaspora contributes to programmes for reconstruction and development. In the

Zimbabwean case, a history of theft, corruption and lack of accountability removed the requisite “mutual faithfulness” that trust must bestow on every diaspora-led development intervention. Instead, negative expectation and distrust characterise the interactions of most in the diaspora, thus limiting their potential participation in the reconstruction process.

Beyond family remittances, the Zimbabwean diaspora has not been able to substantially contribute to the broader reconstruction process. Analysed in terms of transnational capabilities and activities, diaspora contributions to homeland reconstruction arc affected by the contexts in both the host country and the country of origin. In the country of origin (Zimbabwe), this study reveals a number of constraints that include institutional bottlenecks (Muzondidya 2011), and these discourage diaspora involvement in the reconstruction process. Addressing these constraints is necessary to facilitate the involvement of the diaspora in Zimbabwe’s development and reconstruction.


  • 1 This is a Zimbabwean run programme on Facebook by Zimbo Live TV, a live coverage platform on which Zimbabweans worldwide discuss a range of issues including problems that are faced by those in the UK, and current affairs in Zimbabwe. One participant was recruited from this platform.
  • 2 A channel of remittances that exists outside the official banking system. It originated in South Asia but now spans several countries and continents, including the Middle East, North Africa, Hom of Africa and the Indian sub-continent.
  • 3 A former governor for the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe who introduced the Homelink scheme.


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Muzondidya, J. 2011. The Zimbabwean Diaspora: Opportunities and Challenges for Engagement in Zimbabwe’s Political Development and Economic Transformation. In T. Murithi and A. Mawadza (eds.) Zimbabwe in Transition. A View from Within (pp. 112-158). Johannesburg: Jacana.

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13 Zimbabweans at foreign universities

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