- Zimbabwe’s Exodus: Crisis, Migration, Survival
On various occasions and in varied circumstances, many regions of Africa have noted the forced migration, exile, and voluntary departures of individuals searching for economic opportunity and stability. Under Idi Amin’s rule in Uganda, persons of Asian descent were forced to flee in droves. In Ghana, a governmental policy led to the departure of other West Africans, including numerous Nigerians, during the Progress Part administration of Prime Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia. In Zimbabwe’s Exodus: Crisis, Migration, Survival, coeditors Jonathan Crush and Daniel Tevera detail the ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe, which has led to “an unprecedented exodus of over a million desperate people from all strata of [the] Zimbabwean diaspora.”
Importantly, the high quality of the contents shows that the coeditors of the book and the contributors are top migration scholars, including diaspora-based Zimbabwean scholars. Their efforts are to explore the relationship between the economic and political crisis and migration from Zimbabwe. The accounts, including personal stories, are seen as a survival strategy. The profound stories reported in the volume detail the hostility and xenophobia that individuals often experienced outside their own environments.
Divided into seventeen chapters, Zimbabwe’s Exodus has an excellent foreword, written by Vice President Lauchlan T. Munro of the International Development Research Center (IDRC) of Ottawa, Canada. Munro contends that “Stories about migration are full of stereotypes and oversimplification,” and “Zimbabwe’s Exodus: Crisis, Migration, Survival is both an easy and challenging book to read” (p. ix). He adds that his center “has supported several research projects on migration in recent years, including this one. I am delighted to see this fine collection in print.” To make the book accessible to all and sundry, as well as to confirm IDRC Vice President Munro’s assessment about the easiness of the book, the authors have provided a detailed list of acronyms (pp. xii–xiv). [End Page 112]
Instead of an author’s preface or introduction, editors Crush and Tevera have provided a detailed first chapter, subtitled “Exiting Zimbabwe” (pp. 1–49). There, they explain the puzzle about what they term a “mass out-migration,” which is “a perfectly predictable consequence of Zimbabwe’s economic and social collapse” (p. 1). In explaining further, they add “the Zimbabwe government’s political actions and the country’s decline have led to their economic destitution and desperation” (p. 1).
All seventeen chapters offer food for thought and are well researched and written. Certain chapters are quite useful, including Alois S. Mlambo’s “A History of Zimbabwe Migration to 1990” (chapter two). For scholars interested in transnational migration, Alice Bloch in chapter six details the experiences of Zimbabweans in Britain. That chapter dovetails with JoAnn McGregor’s chapter (seven) on Zimbabwean migrants and the UK care industry. Although some black migrants in South Africa—including African Americans—have in the past complained about various forms of mistreatment, chapters nine, ten, and eleven discuss aspects of the Zimbabwean migration to South Africa (pp. 225–290). Chapter eleven, for example, is about female aspects of migration in South Africa, “The Voices of Migrant Zimbabwean Women in South Africa.”
As with problems of illegal immigration in other countries, the migration story in South Africa has its own fragments. In chapter fifteen, France Maphosa discusses “Transnationalism and Undocumented Migration between Rural Zimbabwe and South Africa” (pp. 363–376). In chapter seventeen, Tara Polzer discusses “Silence and Fragmentation: South African Responses to Zimbabwean migration” (pp. 377–399). Readers are provided with a detailed list of contributors so that they can appreciate the other contributors, who may otherwise not be covered in a succinct review. The index (pp. 401–416) is useful, as it covers topical items, including names and places. Zimbabwe’s Exodus should be a useful book for general readers and experts whose fields of research and inquiry have been covered by the contributors. [End Page 113]