Editor's Comment

Yes, Zambian missions must create diaspora funds

ZAMBIA’S out-going High Commissioner to South Africa Muyeba Chikonde’s parting shot was a call for the creation of a diapora fund by Zambians living in South Africa.
Mr Chikonde said the fund can be used to help address welfare challenges of the nationals.
South Africa is the hub of Southern Africa and there are hundreds of Zambians living and working there.
For many Zambians, South Africa is a land of opportunity and many have gone there to work, to do business while others are in schools there.
There are about 3,000 Zambians living in South Africa.
However, not all is rosy during their stay and some are faced with some encumbrances which force them to seek help from the Zambian mission in Pretoria.
The encumbrances include death and destitution due to unexpected circumstances.
But the mission is unable to meet the expectations of the Zambians who encounter some challenges.
Mr Chikonde pointed out that the Pretoria mission’s operating budget was cemented by fixed costs, a situation which has made it difficult to attend to other needs such as repatriation of the deceased and destitute.
The funding the mission receives is not enough to cater for such expenses.
In view of this, Mr. Chikonde has advised the Zambian community in South Africa to take advantage of the on-going consultative process on the Diaspora Policy which has been initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when the exercise is extended to South Africa in the course of next month.
During his farewell party organised by Zambians living in South Africa, ambassador Chikonde told the gathering the spirit they exhibited on Saturday must be institutionalised so that they can create a Diaspora Fund which could be tapped into times of need.
His counsel comes just at the right time.
Zambians are organised, generous and known to help one another during trying moments.
However, as ambassador Chikonde observed, there is need to institutionalise such generosity by setting up a fund to be catering for incidentals such as bereavements and destitution.
This may entail taking out a group insurance package.
People die not because they choose. Death arises from either illness or road accidents.
It becomes a burden to the bereaved family, especially if the deceased was a bread winner and not in gainful employment.
Death may also lead to surviving members of the family becoming destitute in the absence of the bread winner.
Others become destitute after losing jobs and need relief during the time they are out of work or need to return home.
Burdens tend to fall on the mission in Pretoria, which does not have a budget line for such unfortunate circumstances.
In such situations, the mission becomes a liaison point by contacting other Zambians to bail out the victims. Mission staff also contribute to lighten the burden.
Such a gesture is ad hoc and ambassador Chikonde wants a permanent solution to such circumstances.
In fact, such unfortunate circumstances are not perculiar to the mission in Pretoria but all the missions around Africa and probably the whole world.
We, therefore, request the Ministry of Affairs to take note of ambassador Chikonde’s advice and make it a policy which should be shared with all the Zambian missions so that wherever Zambians are, they come up with a diaspora fund.
All Zambian missions should at all times be the first port of call and the last line of defence for their distressed citizens abroad as well as for investors and trading companies.
As ambassador Chikonde takes up his new appointment as Zambia’s high commissioner in the United Kingdom, we hope setting up the diaspora fund should be his first assignment there.
It is our hope that he will replicate his successful story in South Africa in the UK, where Zambians there are waiting to tap into his wisdom.

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