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Referendum no litmus test – Zimbabwe Vigil Diary: 16th March 2013 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 17 March 2013 21:03

One polling station where there was no apathy was outside the London Embassy where more than 100 Zimbabwean exiles gathered on Referendum Day.  We were joined by Mark Beacon of Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA), formerly the Anti-Apartheid Movement, who said ‘we must make sure that the world does not see the referendum as a litmus test for the elections’.

 

Mark said a peaceful referendum was no guide to what will happen in the coming elections. The next few months would be crucial given the telltale signs already present of intimidation and violence which characterized Zanu PF’s electioneering in the past. He insisted that for the elections to be credible there would have to be assurances that the security forces were prepared to accept democratic change and that the army and the police would not be partisan, that there would be an accurate voters’ roll, a free media with equal access by all parties, a repeal of restrictive legislation and international as well as regional observers in place 3 months before and 3 months after the elections.

 

The Vigil and ACTSA marked Referendum Day by inviting people to write messages of hope for free and fair elections on red paper roses which were deposited in a transparent voting box. They will be used to form a montage which we will display before the elections expected in July. The only sour note was cast by President Mugabe (played by Fungayi Mabhunu in our Mugabe mask) who, asked to vote for freedom, voted no.

 

The main event of the day was the presentation of a petition to 10 Downing Street by the Vigil’s sister organization Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR). The petition appealed to the UK government not to send home failed asylum seekers in the face of likely election violence.

 

A letter to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, said there had been a disturbing campaign of police harassment of civil society organisations ahead of the elections, accompanied by increasing violence. The letter went on ‘We expect the situation to worsen as polling approaches because President Mugabe’s Zanu PF thugs are given impunity by the police to terrorise opponents’ (for text of letter, see: http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/vigil-news/press-releases/480-uk-zimbabweans-appeal-to-cameron).

 

An arresting image were the skirts in Zimbabwean colours worn by ROHR ladies. They treated us to an exuberant dancing display outside 10 Downing Street. Thanks to Consolata Ngwenya for making the skirts. She was one of the 6 delegates who presented the petition. The others were: Cynthia Mutede, Zenzile Chabuka, Helen Rukambiro, Mary Muteyerwa and Bryne Mashonganyika.

 

ROHR spokesperson Fungayi summed up our view: ‘The referendum is a charade. President Mugabe has once again outwitted the Movement for Democratic Change. Four years and more than $100 million have been wasted on this defective constitution when what is really needed is action to ensure free and fair elections’.

 

Other points

·         Mark Beacon joined us at a well-attended forum after the Vigil where we discussed how we could work together. One idea was a protest on 27th June the anniversary of the abortive re-run of the Presidential elections of 2008. Vigil supporters were appreciative of the efforts of ACTSA and signed up to support them. It was suggested that the ROHR structures could be used to publicise ACTSA campaigns for Zimbabwe.

·         We were happy to be joined by David Wilkins who has taken a close interest in Zimbabwe. David is blind with a genetic defect which also affects his brother – Norrie disease. He interviewed some of us for a BBC World Service programme.

·         Vigil supporters read with interest a report that SADC leaders are in despair at the MDC’s failure to insist on implementation of GPA measures which would help secure free and fair elections (SADC leaders lose faith in MDC parties – http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/mar16b_2013.html#Z5 and Editor’s Memo: Tsvangirai won’t have anyone to blame – http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/mar16b_2013.html#Z12). As we gathered on Referendum Saturday there was speculation about which job Tsvangirai will be given in the next GNU. Second Vice President was thought the most likely. It would recognize his contribution (yet keep him safely away from power). The MDC can argue that he will be able to restrain the worst excesses of Zanu PF and gain recognition from African leaders. The good thing about GNU2, the MDC will say, is that it has avoided genocide / economic collapse / starvation / the assassination of MDC leaders etc. And yes, they will point out, the constitution can be amended by a two-thirds majority to provide for 1,000 more MPs to reward hard working party members. Harare wasn’t built in a day . . .

·         The Zimbabwe Association has sent us some new information on the situation of asylum seekers and other matters which can be accessed on the following links:

-         http://zimbabweassociation.org.uk/detention/detainee-and-removals-update/ – new briefing

-         http://zimbabweassociation.org.uk/drop-in-centres/jobs/ – more jobs

-         http://zimbabweassociation.org.uk/information/country-information/ – new information on Zimbabwe


For latest Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/. Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website – they cannot be downloaded from the slideshow on the front page of the Zimvigil website.

 

FOR THE RECORD: 100 signed the register.

 

EVENTS AND NOTICES:

·         Round 15 of the Free Zimbabwe Global Campaign (FZGC). Saturday 23rd March. Meet at the Zimbabwe Embassy at 2 pm.

·         ROHR Leicester Branch meeting. Saturday 23rd March from 1 – 4.30 pm. Venue: The Brite Centre, Braunstone Ave, Braunstone LE3 1LE. Contact: Christopher Kamuzonde 07449150041, Enniah Dube 07403439707 and Bryne Mashonganyika 07450547313.

·         Zimbabwe Action Forum (ZAF). Saturday 6th April from 6.30 – 9.30 pm. Venue: Strand Continental Hotel (first floor lounge), 143 Strand, London WC2R 1JA. The Strand is the same road as the Vigil. From the Vigil it’s about a 10 minute walk, in the direction away from Trafalgar Square. The Strand Continental is situated on the south side of the Strand between Somerset House and the turn off onto Waterloo Bridge. The entrance is marked by a big sign high above and a sign for its famous Indian restaurant at street level. It's next to a newsagent. Nearest underground: Temple (District and Circle lines) and Holborn. Next ZAF: Saturday 20nd April same time and venue.

·         Launch of ROHR Leeds Branch. Saturday 6th April. More details to follow.

·         Zimbabwe Vigil Highlights 2012 can be viewed on this link: http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/the-vigil-diary/467-vigil-highlights-2012.  Links to previous years’ highlights are listed on 2012 Highlights page.

·         The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) is the Vigil’s partner organization based in Zimbabwe. ROHR grew out of the need for the Vigil to have an organization on the ground in Zimbabwe which reflected the Vigil’s mission statement in a practical way. ROHR in the UK actively fundraises through membership subscriptions, events, sales etc to support the activities of ROHR in Zimbabwe. Please note that the official website of ROHR Zimbabwe is http://www.rohrzimbabwe.org/. Any other website claiming to be the official website of ROHR in no way represents the views and opinions of ROHR.

·         Vigil Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=8157345519&ref=ts.

·         Vigil Myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/zimbabwevigil...

·         Useful websites: www.zanupfcrime.com which reports on Zanu PF abuses and www.ipaidabribe.org.zw where people can report corruption in Zimbabwe.

 

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