By Takura Zhangazha
Social media continues its increasingly phenomenal role in Zimbabwean consciousness. Particularly where it is used to navigate the linkages between the Zimbabwean Diaspora and the growing number of its users in Zimbabwe.
While initially it was intended for communication purposes, it is increasingly being used for entertainment and even the regular jocular sparring by a number of middle aged and young Zimbabweans.
The latest such trend has been the most times humorous ‘Zvinhu Zvirikufaya’ social media platform. It is one that arguably takes its cue from the original ‘Kuripwa Kugara’ video done by a character called ‘Baba Tinsely’
It has caught on back home largely because of what local mobile phone companies have called ‘social media bundles’ for Facebook and Whatsapp.
What now obtains however is the seeming permanency of new/social media as a communication/ interaction platform between the Diaspora and those living at home in Zimbabwe. It’s largely humorous but it also indicates or confirms an emerging shared value system across rivers and oceans by Zimbabweans.
It remains a value system that is largely materialistic, laced with humour and as a result thereof, flaunted in pursuit of ‘recognition’.
From what I have seen (thanks to bundles) it is the Diaspora that appears more keen on demonstrating how its living and working conditions are comparatively better to those at home, in good jest.
Even if most of the videos are about food and cars. The fewer home country based video responses have been in part defensive of the current living conditions or more to ridicule those that are claiming a life that may at times appear to be contrived.
Either way, it is evident that the common thread from both sides (Diaspora and Local) is the pursuit of the ‘good life.’ Even the definitions of the latter appear to be similar. That is to say, ‘the good life’ consists of lots of food, big/expensive cars, occasionally nice houses/flats and fancy computer or mobile telephony gadgets.
What is however important to analyse further is the indispensability of the relationship between the Diaspora and local citizens where and when it comes to the consciousness of an increasingly young Zimbabwean population.
While this relationship had initially taken on a particular economic form through remittances (US$1,4 billion in the last year), social media is augmenting its organic status.
The humour and material well-being comparisons, even where they appear contrived on new media applications, remain poignant reflectors as to how home and the Diaspora increasingly have a lot in common.
These interactions while previously having been largely political, are now more grounded in individuals demonstrating lifestyles or at least their preferred ones.
In both, there is the intention to live a good life largely informed by materialism.
However it cannot escape the mind that perhaps the era of the Diaspora being a quick, easy and rosier life option is dissipating for varying reasons. Not least of which is the fact that it is getting harder for younger Zimbabweans to be able to get Visas or even cross borders illegally. Just as much as it gets harder for our Diaspora to be able to make enough income to sustain to the same levels of the Zimbabwe dollar periods, families at home and abroad.
I am sure for the young Diaspora and the young locally based Zimbabweans, there is an acceptance, despite the good humour, of the permanence of the phrases ‘handidzokiko’ or ‘hatiuyiko’ respectively. Movements from home to the Diaspora are much harder and the same is true for movements from the Diaspora to home.
After the laughter however is the serious question of engaging the Diaspora and the Local on a much more structured way forward as to how to improve the interaction of both groups. It would be a way forward less enamoured to materialism but to engaging on broader policy issues which would include less politicised approaches to dual citizenship, sharing of lived experiences, mutually beneficial economic development issues and trying as far as is possible to keep cultural/social linkages alive.