Expats not going home yet

Zimbabwean professionals in the UK say they will need to see real change before they would even consider going home, despite South Africa's ongoing attempts to resolve the disputes between the bickering partners in Zimbabwe's unity government.

In 2000 President Robert Mugabe, leader of the ruling ZANU-PF party, embarked on a violent land-reform exercise that destroyed the country's agriculturally based economy.

After a decade of economic meltdown, Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister and leader of the main section of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and Arthur Mutambara, leader of a breakaway section of the MDC, and Mugabe became the three signatories to the Global Political Agreement (GPA), which paved the way for establishing the unity government.

"Zimbabweans here [in the UK] feel they cannot put their trust in the hands of politicians again, and unless all outstanding issues to the GPA are solved, few Zimbabweans will muster enough confidence to go back to their country," Arthur Bango, a qualified nurse who left Zimbabwe in 2000, told IRIN.

Estimates of how many Zimbabweans have fled the country's economic freefall and political violence in the last decade range from 500,000 to 4 million. Many have crossed the border to South Africa - the continent's economic powerhouse – while figures for the number in the UK, the former colonial power, vary between 100,000 and 2 million.

The GPA, signed in September 2008, led to formation of a unity government in February 2009, but any desire the expatriates might have had to return soon evaporated as the signatories failed to give the agreement any real substance. "The ZANU-PF side of the inclusive government is perceived to be dragging its feet on fully implementing the political agreement," Bango commented.

On 16 October 2009 Morgan Tsvangirai "disengaged" from the unity government in protest over Mugabe's alleged refusal to abide by the terms of the GPA, maintaining that Mugabe was stalling the swearing in of provincial governors, mainly from the MDC, and that MDC members and officials faced constant harassment by the ZANU-PF-controlled security forces.

The MDC has also said that Mugabe's unilateral appointment of the attorney general and the reserve bank governor, and their continued stay in office, is in contravention of the GPA.

In turn, ZANU-PF contends that the MDC has not done enough to persuade the US and the European Union to lift targeted sanctions against hundreds of senior ZANU-PF officials, as well as Mugabe and his family, and that the MDC has failed to stop radio stations funded by foreign governments from broadcasting into Zimbabwe.

Too late, too little

A three-man South African team – Vincent Mangwenya, President Jacob Zuma's spokesperson; Lindiwe Zulu, Zuma's international relations advisor; and former cabinet minister Charles Nqakula - has been trying to nudge Zimbabwe's political parties towards each other in the hope of kick-starting stalled negotiations, but many Zimbabweans in the UK think it might be too late.

''Nobody wants to work in a foreign land for ever - people can't wait to go back to a normal environment''

"I am a qualified teacher and came to this country in 1999. My children have already grown and are attending schools or university here," said a Zimbabwean living in London who preferred to remain anonymous. Relocating his children to Zimbabwe would not make sense because the schools and universities there "had long collapsed, while health delivery is equally bad", he said.

Tatenda Nyati, another Zimbabwean in London, commented: "Many Zimbabweans were hoping to bring back development and prosperity to Zimbabwe, but that does not seem likely anytime soon."

A 30-year-old accountant, Malvern Moyo, said he and others were prepared to return and help rebuild the country, but "The politicians are being very selfish and unfair by not coming up with a solution to our problems. Nobody wants to work in a foreign land for ever - people can't wait to go back to a normal environment."