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Vigil Diary Archive Jan - Mar 2006 PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 01 January 2006 00:00
25 th March 2006

A soggy Vigil. It has been so dry in England that we haven't used our tarpaulin for some time – long enough for some people to forget that when we prod it with our brollies, heavy with rain, it cascades over everyone on the periphery! Vigil Co-ordinator Dumi Tutani, from Southampton , was tireless leading the singing and everyone was supplied with tea thanks to the generosity of Patricia, the daughter of the venerated Jairos Jiri, who donated three thermos jugs. Yeukai happily took on the role of tea lady, filling the thermos jugs with boiling water from our friendly local pub, Theodore Bullfrog, and making sure everyone had tea and coffee to order.

Two of our stalwarts, Ephraim Tapa and Julius Mutyambezi-Dewa, went to support our sister vigil in Bristol on their first day. Ephraim welcomed them to the “Vigil family” and spoke of the need to see ourselves as Zimbabweans rather than cling to a tribal identity. He emphasized that the vigils would continue until there were free and fair elections in Zimbabwe and people could go home to rebuild the country. Julius spoke of the importance of the Zimbabwean diaspora. He said so many Zimbabweans who had much to offer the country had been dispersed but they were vital in determining the future of Zimbabwe . The Bristol Vigil startled passers-by with its vibrant spirit. Several people were dressed in traditional attire – perhaps not suitable for an English early spring – but it attracted some Zimbabwean passers-by. How extraordinary that so many Zimbabweans are dispersed all over the place. Congratulations to Barbara and her team – from all reports their first Vigil was a very successful event. The Bristol Vigil will be held on the last Saturday of every month and the London Vigil will continue to support them and other vigils throughout the United Kingdom and elsewhere to give courage to the suffering back home. We might be lonely and homesick but we are dancing and singing for a new Zimbabwe .

We were lifted by news that two of our supporters, Richard and Philipa, have had their asylum status granted which means they can now work here until things are right in Zimbabwe for them to return home. You may remember us mentioning that Richard had been tagged by the Home Office – he is still waiting for the tag to be removed.

A new role for the Vigil – it's providing material for literary efforts. Addley, who is studying English, was asked to write a short story for her English class. She wrote a story about the adventures of the Vigil dog which was very well-received.

FOR THE RECORD: 50 signed the register.

FOR YOUR DIARY: Zimbabwe Forum, Upstairs at the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street , London WC2 (cross the Strand from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go down a passageway to John Adam Street , turn right and you will see the pub).

•  Monday, 27 th March , 7.30 pm – Yvonne Marimo, Chair of the Zimbabwe Women's Network UK will talk about s ocial issues affecting women of the Zimbabwean Diaspora .

•  Monday, 3 rd April, 7.30 pm – Peter Tatchell will talk on how to campaign effectively to put Zimbabwe on the UK agenda.

18 th March 2006

Big, bold and brassy was the UK response to Zanu-PF's attempt to undermine the MDC Congress. The MDC in the UK joined the Vigil to protest against Mugabe's inept efforts to taint the MDC with trumped-up treason charges. The UK diaspora gathered outside Zimbabwe House buzzing with anger at the threat to the last vestiges of democratic space. Ephraim Tapa, Chair of MDC Central London Branch, said the MDC Congress was the only way to deliver Zimbabwe from Mugabe's tyranny. The MDC-UK's Publicity and Information Secretary, Mathew Nyashanu, said that every gathering we have in Britain was an embarrassment for a terrorist government and gave the diaspora an opportunity to articulate its case to the international community. We were pleased that the Chair of the MDC-UK Women's Branch, Suzeet Kwenda-Ruwona, and others from branches throughout the country were there to express their outrage at what is going on in Zimbabwe . Among MDC branches represented were Leicester , Birmingham , Sheffield , South Bedforshire , Southend and Leeds .

We can't let this diary go by without recording that Francesca, our 15 year old supporter from Kent , has written to Mrs Blair in her capacity as a human rights lawyer, and also Tesco and Sainsbury's questioning their involvement in Zimbabwe . The replies were not satisfactory but she is setting an example of lobbying which should inspire others.

A popular innovation was a poster “Take a shot at Mugabe” which showed a picture of Mugabe with his mouth agape superimposed on a dartboard. It was extraordinary how warlike the anti-war protesters were who came past us on their way from a big protest in Trafalgar Square . Many of them demanded darts. Another snapshot on our last Winter Vigil: a fellow drinking from a can of beer who appeared to be a typical down and out approached us. We immediately thought he was touting for money but instead he gave us £10. With unexpected support like that we can only believe that Spring will bring change and new growth in Zimbabwe .

Best wishes to our friends in Bristol who mount their first Vigil (sister to our Vigil) next Saturday (25 th March). We are sending representatives from our Vigil to support them. The Bristol Vigil will be held from 11 am – 3 pm at the corner of Cheltenham Road and Claremont Road . We understand from the organisers that they will be supported by the local Zimbabwe Women's Refugee Group. They are also expecting Tabitha Khumalo, the prominent Zimbabwean trade unionist. They have good music lined up as well. Directions: from Temple Meads Station, catch the 73 bus to Cheltenham Road and get out at Colston Girls School .  Continue walking up Cheltenham Road and at the cross roads you will see the Vigil as the top of Cheltenham Road leads onto Claremont Road .

FOR THE RECORD: 115 signed the register.

FOR YOUR DIARY: Zimbabwe Forum, Upstairs at the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street , London WC2 (cross the Strand from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go down a passageway to John Adam Street , turn right and you will see the pub).

•  Monday, 20 th March, 7.30 pm – Elizabeth Bishop will talk about her work with the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.

•  Monday, 27 th March , 7.30 pm – Yvonne Marimo of the Zimbabwe Women's Network will talk about s ocial issues affecting women of the Zimbabwean Diaspora .

15 th March 2006

  Protest at attacks on the MDC

Big demo on Saturday (18 th March) against Mugabe's crackdown on the MDC. The demonstration is staged by MDC UK and is being hosted by the Zimbabwe Vigil . It will be held outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, London , at the usual Vigil time of 2 – 6 pm .

As you will know, a number of senior party members have been arrested on what are widely seen as trumped-up charges of plotting to assassinate Mugabe.

At the same time a wave of violence has been unleashed against MDC supporters. Once again there are reports of police torture and 4 MDC supporters were seriously injured last weekend when they were attacked by Zanu-PF thugs after a big rally attended by Morgan Tsvangirai.

The government's crackdown is widely believed to be an attempt to derail the MDC Congress to be held in Harare from 17 th – 19 th March at which the party is expected to adopt a resolution on mass protests against the regime.

•  Please come and support us.

•  Bring posters and banners.

11 th March 2006

A late winter snowfall covered much of Britain . The Vigil escaped but naturally, with our supporters so widely dispersed, it affected our numbers. Everyone was abuzz with reports of the so-called arms find in Zimbabwe : there was a general feeling that it was another desperate attempt by the collapsing Zanu-PF regime to divert attention from the MDC's Congress in Harare next weekend. Hopefully their next ploy will be the departure of Mugabe (perhaps on an extended skiing holiday in Malaysia to test out his 30 year old bones).

It was great to have so many women at the Vigil and their lovely singing was supported by the drumming of a laid back West Indian supporter among others. A group of about 8 English girls enthusiastically joined in the dancing.

Fittingly, it was announced that Evelyn Tafirenyika has agreed to be one of the Vigil co-ordinators. Evelyn is always at the forefront of the singing and dancing. Another newly appointed co-ordinator is Dumi Tutani, a musician, who is also a long-term supporter. He faithfully comes every week from as far away as Southampton . He is always there from beginning to end and is invaluable in making newcomers welcome. They replace Tawanda Spicer who is now studying in South Africa and Chengetai Mupara whose work often keeps him away on Saturdays. They join the other Vigil co-ordinator, Rose Benton, in management of the Vigil. These are the people to be approached on matters to do with the Vigil.

FOR THE RECORD: 50 signed the register and the Vigil dog, who didn't escape today, left his paw print.

FOR YOUR DIARY: Zimbabwe Forum, Upstairs at the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street , London WC2 (cross the Strand from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go down a passageway to John Adam Street , turn right and you will see the pub).

•  Monday, 13 th March, 7.30 pm – Harris Nyatsanza will be giving us an eye witness account of the Appeals Court hearing last week, telling us when we can expect a decision and how this will affect current asylum seekers. There will also be the usual news round up from Zimbabwe .

•  Monday, 20 th March, 7.30 pm – Elizabeth Bishop will talk about her work with the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.

4 th March 2006

The Vigil ended in some disarray when the Vigil dog Chai (Indian for tea) slipped his halter and set off towards Leicester Square after an exuberant Patson Muzuwa advanced on him bearing food. (Silly dog. No one else has complained about Patson's food.) Grateful thanks to Patson, Julius Mutyambezi,Addley Nyamutaka, Nick and Anna who spent hours searching for him. We went back to the Embassy at 1 am in case he had returned from the fleshpots of the West End and again at daybreak. (We are grateful to the dustmen and homeless people – some of them no doubt Zimbabweans – sleeping rough in the Strand who responded so courteously to our appeal for help.) We were dreading having to report the loss to Chai's owner when seventeen hours later he appeared barking outside his home seven miles away. A miracle! And one that we hope augurs well for the lost people of Zimbabwe . It may be a long and unknown journey but hopefully we will all find our way home. We just hope that Chai does not head off now for his birthplace in the streets of the Indian holy city of Benares / Varanasi . Perhaps the reason for Chai's nervousness was the sheer size of the Vigil, pulsating with wonderful music.

One of our supporters brought popular MDC headbands and cotton wraps and – after last week's interruption – we were able to offer two weeks' editions of The Zimbabwean. We were pleased to hear that Francesca, our schoolgirl supporter, managed to get publicity for the Zimbabwean cause in her local newspaper.

Supporters who can get there are urged to gather outside the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand at 10 am on Monday, 6 th March, when the Home Office is to appeal against a ruling halting the return of Zimbabweans. Apparently the Home Office is arguing that returnees are not badly treated. They appear to rely on information we question and we urge anyone who can contradict this to contact the Zimbabwe Association. (Tel: 020 7549 0355, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , website: www .zimbabweassociation.org.)

FOR THE RECORD: 73 signed the register today.

FOR YOUR DIARY: Monday, 6 th March, 7.30 pm, Zimbabwe Forum, Upstairs at the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street, London WC2 (cross the Strand from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go down a passageway to John Adam Street, turn right and you will see the pub). The speaker this week is Lois Davies, the UK co-ordinator of WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise). Lois will show us a video of their most recent events in Zimbabwe and talk about the work of the WOZA founder - Jenny Williams and others, who recently received humanitarian awards.

25 th February 2006

Supporters came from all over the country to join the Vigil on a bright but icy day with a piercing Arctic wind which twice overturned our table, sending copies of our petition flying down the Strand .

The 70 or so people who braved the elements were pleased to hear that the Vigil has now submitted its evidence on torture to the Human Rights Office of the UN in Geneva . We were invited to contribute following a petition we submitted to the UN about human rights abuses in Zimbabwe . The bulky dossier we have sent them includes personal testimonies from a number of our supporters detailing their torture at the hands of the Mugabe regime. As it considers this matter, we are stepping up the pressure with a new petition demanding UN intervention as the situation spirals out of control in Zimbabwe . We would like to thank Kevin of Redress and Tor of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum for their help with our submission.

We were pleased to have with us Kudaushe Matimba, a former member of the Bhundu Boys, who gave a star performance on the drums. Unfortunately his fingers were too cold to play much on the mbira someone brought to the Vigil. We are happy to report that he is engaged on a new music project.

Crispen Kulinji was among a large group from Leicester who helped galvanise the singing. He said: “Some of you can sing, some of you are good at slogans. Some of you might be CIOs. For those who are CIOS can you turn your mobiles on and send this song to Mugabe”. Much laughter. By the close there was a powerful energy as we all joined hands to sing the national anthem in a huge circle around the four maple trees outside the Embassy.

We were disappointed not to get our usual supply of the Zimbabwean newspaper this week – our supplier was in an area closed by police investigating a serious crime incident. The paper is always food for debate among our networking supporters.

Supporters gave generously for the funeral expenses in Zimbabwe of Gilbert Shoko, MDC MP for Budiriro, who died on Thursday night. Others were happy to give interviews to a lady who is collecting material for a programme on women's asylum issues.

FOR THE RECORD: 68 signed the register today.

FOR YOUR DIARY: Monday, 27 th February, 7.30 pm, Zimbabwe Forum, Upstairs at the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street, London WC2 (cross the Strand from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go down a passageway to John Adam Street, turn right and you will see the pub). The speaker will be Yvonne Mahlunge, a member of the MDC Executive who currently resides in the UK . She will be speaking the political implications for refugees and their families of the upcoming Asylum and Immigration Tribunal appeal in March against a previous ruling on Zimbabwean asylum seekers.

18 th February 2006

One of our supporters, Tsungi, as just lost her mother and this sad news rather overshadowed our day. She was the seventh of her family to die in the present crisis. We may be far away but the reality of Zimbabwe is always with us. How many more must die before the situation is resolved? Our petition signed by passers-by calls on the UN Security Council to intervene.

We were pleased to have the Reverend Dr. Martine Stemerick with us. She was grieving the death of Sheba Dube Phiri of Bulawayo who worked tirelessly for orphans and widows in Zimbabwe . Martine had worked very closely with her. Sheba died very suddenly of what Martine believes was exhaustion. Martine came at noon to support a special demonstration for WOZA and stayed on for the Vigil. We are always behind WOZA and it was good to see some old friends from the early days of the Vigil.

But best of all was to have four ladies from Liverpool . That's a long way away: the bus must take three or four hours in each direction. So here's to the Zimbabwe Beatles: Sarah, Chiecko, Fungai and Palma – always something good out of Liverpool . And also out of Tunbridge Wells from where Francesca and her group brought a new supply of wristbands “Make Mugabe History”. They reported back on their church service for Zimbabwe last week which attracted a bumper congregation.

For the first Saturday in ages we had rain but our green tarpaulin kept us dry. It was quite a sight – so many people huddled together and singing to the sound of drums.

FOR THE RECORD: 77 attended the Vigil today.

FOR YOUR DIARY: Monday, 20th February, 7.30 pm, Zimbabwe Forum, Upstairs at the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street, London WC2 (cross the Strand from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go down a passageway to John Adam Street, turn right and you will see the pub). This week's Forum will discuss the Court of Appeal Hearing scheduled for 6 th – 8 th March. This appeal will give a ruling which is important to all current Zimbabwean asylum seekers. The Refugee Council has suggested a demo outside the court to show support for the Zimbabwean appellants and publicise the plight of Zimbabwean asylum seekers. This will be followed by brainstorming on long term planning for the Forum: speakers, topics etc.

12 th February 2006

Our Vigil spokesperson Julius Mutyambezi-Dewa took the opportunity to expose the Bishop of Harare when he addressed an Anglican church in Kent today. Julius was invited by Vigil supporters Sue and Francesca to a special service for Zimbabwe . He explained what the Vigil was about and spoke about the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe . He was pleased to meet a Zimbabwean choir at the Church – possibly some new recruits for the Vigil. The generous congregation raised over £700 for charity.

11 th February 2006

The space between the four maple trees outside Zimbabwe House has become too small. We are now regularly spilling outside our bannered enclosure into the rest of the small piazza in front of the Embassy. It makes our presence even more of a challenge to people from Charing Cross station passing by on their way to the attractions of Covent Garden . To some, no doubt, we were a small sideshow to a big demonstration in nearby Trafalgar Square attended by thousands of Muslims protesting in dignified manner about what they see as “Islamaphobia” – the rejection of the group as a whole because of certain elements. Zimbabweans – rejected by so many – will feel the pain. But we are here every week, not just occasionally, determined to stay until there are free and fair elections so we can rebuild our country democratically.

And on a bright winter's day our pin-up was Tinotenda Vigil Muzuwa who was celebrating her 2 nd birthday with a pink cake and 70 “relatives”. She has been coming to the Vigil since before she was born. She had other small ones to share the occasion, among them was baby Tatenda who, by the end of the Vigil, was out for the count in his buggy.

We were glad to welcome Patricia, the daughter of Jairos Jiri, who did so much for the disabled in Zimbabwe . The fact that we are becoming a fixture was driven home at the end of a typically boisterous day when one of the notoriously strict parking attendants let us off a parking ticket in recognition of what we are doing.

Next week the Vigil is to be preceded by a demonstration at Zimbabwe House from noon to 2 pm in support of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) who stage an annual protest to mark Valentine's Day. Their theme this year is inspired by the “Bread and Roses” strike led and won by American women workers in 1912. For WOZA in 2006, bread symbolizes their need for affordable food and roses signify the need to be dignified and the call for social justice. Please come and support them.

FOR THE RECORD: 69 signed the register today.

FOR YOUR DIARY: Monday, 13 th February, 7.30 pm, Zimbabwe Forum, Upstairs at the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street, London WC2 (cross the Strand from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go down a passageway to John Adam Street, turn right and you will see the pub). Mike Bennett will be reporting back from the MDC UK Policy Development and Constitutional Review Meeting in Luton , 12th February 2006 and a video will be shown of Sue Lloyd-Roberts' report on the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe which was broadcast on BBC Newsnight on  16th December 2005 .

4 th February 2006

This week's vigil was a time for old friends and new friends. Patson brought his family from Leicester and the Vigil Baby Tinotenda Vigil Muzuwa, who is not such a baby any more, was walking around and even started to dance to the energetic music and drumming. Sue and Francesca our British supporters from Tunbridge Wells have become regulars at the Vigil, and told us all about the Zimbabwean service they are having at their church in Tunbridge Wells next Sunday. They met a Zimbabwean at the Vigil who lives in the next door village of Southborough , which just shows that there are Zimbabweans almost everywhere in the UK now.

The Vigil as always is a place where people are able to meet and share things that are happening, another old friend of the Vigil, Nick, had come from a funeral for a Zimbabwean friend and was able to share his grief with us. As usual our local well-wisher Hugh bought pizza, but with more than sixty people at the vigil only the most needy were able to have a slice. A new supporter called Chipo was eager to buy a copy of the Zimbabwean as she had a letter printed in the paper – another pro-active Zimbabwean showing how we can each make a difference in our own way.

Another old friend who came by was Dave, a British man who lost an eye in a shooting incident and is now a regular campaigner against black-on-black gun crime in the UK . When he first came past the Vigil he seemed quite hostile since he thought Mugabe was an African hero, until a few gentle words from people at the Vigil got him thinking. He says he now goes around telling people about what's really happening in Zimbabwe – so we should not be discouraged by the negative reactions we sometimes get from Caribbeans and others who see what Mugabe seems to stand for rather than what he actually is.

Two new friends this week were Rosemary and Jude from Bristol , who are going to do a vigil in Bristol . The vigil will be on Sat 25 March, at Gloucester Road in Bristol and they are hoping to make it a regular monthly event. For more details please email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

There were about sixty of us when we joined hands to sing the National Anthem at the end of the Vigil, old and new friends and a wandering guitarist who joined us near the end.

For your Diary: The MDC National Chair and his delegation are touring the UK and will be at a meeting on Monday hosted by the London Forum for anyone in the South. The venue is the usual Forum venue of the Theodore Bullfrog in John Adam Street (from the Embassy you cross the street, go down the alleyway there and turn right and it's on the right. Nearest tube Charing Cross).

28 th January 2006

The depths of winter, with an icy wind from Siberia . You had to sing and dance to survive the Vigil. Those of us used to the weather can only salute those fresh from home, all too many of them without really warm clothes or even full stomachs. This at least was addressed by our English sympathiser Hugh, who as he often does bought large pizzas for us to share. He was triumphant today because he had done a deal and is now getting every second pizza half price!

Today we had two asylum seekers wearing tags, an electronic monitoring system offered to asylum seekers in place of detention. In addition to Richard who came last week, we also had Tsitsi. Tsitsi gave us her weekly schedule of times she has to be at home. It may interest people to know how circumscribed she is: Monday, 9 – 11 am and 9 – 10 pm; Tuesday, 1 – 2 am; Wednesday, 10 – 11 am and 3 – 4 pm; Thursday, 12 – 1 pm (report to police at 2 pm); Friday, 10 – 11 am and 9 – 10 pm; Saturday, 12 – 1 pm and 9 – 10 pm; Sunday, 5 – 6 am. Both Richard and Tsitsi were pleased that despite being tagged they could still come to the Vigil.

Great to have 3 carloads of supporters from Leicester , including the Vigil child, Tinotenda Vigil Muzuwa, wrapped like an Eskimo. Despite the weather there were loads of new faces including someone who came from Zimbabwe today – we are always encouraged by new supporters. Once people come they realise they are among friends who can help and advise them.

The Vigil spokesperson, Julius Mutyambezi-Dewa reported that he had received a reply this week to a letter he had written to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on behalf of the Vigil. He had asked for a meeting to discuss the Zimbabwean situation and they have given a positive response. Their letter also said, “We share your views about Zimbabwe . The situation is appalling, as Mugabe continues with his disastrous policies. We will keep international pressure on the Government of Zimbabwe until reform takes place.” Julius has taken the pulse of the Vigil and will reply with a detailed agenda so that hopefully the Vigil will be able to discuss in depth with the FCO issues of close concern to our supporters.

PS The Africa Centre bookshop in Covent Garden is closing for refurbishment at the end of this month. This was our stockist for The Zimbabwean newspaper. However the paper will still be available from the Vigil through our new stockist, African Enterprises, Unit 3 The Arches, Villiers Street , London WC2N 6NG .

FOR THE RECORD: 54 signed the register today.

FOR YOUR DIARY: Monday, 30 th January, 7.30 pm, Zimbabwe Forum, Upstairs at the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street, London WC2 (cross the Strand from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go down a passageway to John Adam Street, turn right and you will see the pub). John Huruva of MDC East London Branch and a former Organising Secretary of the MDC-UK is to discuss the current situation in the MDC – what caused the split and where do we go from here towards a united party?

26 th January 2006

THE ROLL OF HONOUR on the website has been updated. We've added another 30 or so name – sadly among them is Don Stewart, the father of our supporter, Cathy Stewart. He was murdered last November. We mourn them.

21 st January 2006

No sooner had we set up shop with our banners and flags and “Mugabe wanted for murder” poster than we were overwhelmed by supporters – our friends Leah from Derby and Caroline from Exeter among the first.

Soon we had helicopters overhead. We drummed and sang even louder. It turned out that the helicopters were tracking a whale which had swum up the Thames in a desperate attempt to join us.

friend from Leicester, Richard, came to the Vigil with his tag – an electronic monitoring system offered to asylum seekers in place of detention. We were very happy to see him but we understand that some supporters may have difficulty getting to us because this restricts their movements.

Good news of the week was that our faithful supporter, Patience, has won her asylum case and can legally stay and work in this country and help other Zimbabweans. (By the way, a recent survey showed that Zimbabweans were among the best educated of asylum seekers.)

ith so many people coming we spread far beyond the four maples outside the Embassy when we sang “Ishe Komberera / Nkosi Sikelele”. PS thanks to our benefactor, Hugh for his generous pizzas.

The passion at the Vigil with the drumming, singing and toi-toiing bring Africa to the Strand – passers-by from all over the place are fascinated – and stop to watch, take photos and sometimes join in.

  FOR THE RECOR: 57 signed the register today.

FOR YOUR DIARY: Monday, 23 rd January 2006, 7.30 pm, the Zimbabwe Forum, U pstairs at the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street, London WC2 (cross the Strand from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go down a passageway to John Adam Street, turn right and you will see the pub – nearest stations: Charing Cross and Embankment).

14 th January 2006

Lots of new faces. We were joined by people from Derby (with toddler), Luton , Brighton , Oxford , Essex , Leicester , Sheffield , Bedford . . . . . and South Africa .

The Vigil has been the recipient of some interesting gifts. Today a supporter from South Africa brought some lavatory paper featuring Mugabe and his lolling tongue. Our donor says loads of it is being taken back to Zimbabwe from South Africa . Perhaps it will end up in the presidential palace given the shortages at home. Recently we were given 5 t-shirts "Drive out trash, drive out Mugabe". Hard to know who to give them to so we had a raffle and drew it today and 5 happy people went home with the t-shirts.

Another gift came in the post today - packs of playing cards which have been created by a coalition of civic groups concerned about freedom in Zimbabwe . The ace of spades, for example, shows Josiah Tongogara rising from the grave to chase Mugabe, the 5 shows rural chiefs on their knees with their mouths in the Zanu-PF trough, the ace of diamonds has "Robber Mugabe" on his throne surrounded by bags of gold and jewels. The joker is Jonathan Moyo depicted as a snake with two heads. They will give new life to card players in Zimbabwe . Our supporter from South Africa reports that a friend saw thousands of these packs at a bus station in South Africa being handed out to Zimbabweans returning home: humour is always the Achilles' Heel of the tyrant. Anyway, for our part, we will send one of our packs to our great supporter Kate Hoey, MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Committee on Zimbabwe : we hope she won't have to play patience much longer.

It was such a pulsating Vigil despite the gloomy weather and we were pleased to have the Vigil child, Tinotenda, renew acquaintances with the Vigil dog, Chai. They weren't the only old friends meeting again at the Vigil.

FOR THE RECORD: 45 supporters came today.

FOR YOUR DIARY: Monday, 16 th January 2006 , 7.30 pm , MDC Centra l London Branch Assembly meeting, in place of the usual Monday Forum. All members of Central London Branch are invited to attend. U pstairs at the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street , London WC2 (cross the Strand from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go down a passageway to John Adam Street , turn right and you will see the pub – nearest stations: Charing Cross and Embankment).

7 th January 2006

Our first Vigil of the New Year was the coldest of the winter so far. But it was bright and, most importantly, dry. We had a reasonable turnout for this torpid time of year – about the same number who attended on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. It was certainly easier than New Year's Eve when supporters had to brave a tube strike, including 3 English girls who had spent five months of their gap year as volunteers helping Pastor Ray Motsi of the Bulawayo Baptist Church .

Some of our members agreed to speak about Zimbabwe at an Anglican church in Speldhurst , Kent . We are always keen to raise awareness in the churches and particularly welcome the opportunity to tell Anglicans about the Bishop of Harare, the Mugabe clone and part-time farmer.

As usual, supporters came from far and wide – Rugby , Leicester , Southampton , Canterbury . . . It is inspiring to know of the great efforts people make to join us outside the Embassy. For some it takes many hours and no little expense. Though the weather may be cold, the atmosphere at the Vigil is very warm and a bit of singing and dancing works wonders.

As usual, Wiz's newsboards attract a lot of attention, briefing people on the latest dismal news from Zimbabwe . There is certainly a lot of interest and sympathy. We see our job as building on this.

FOR THE RECORD: 22 supporters came today.

FOR YOUR DIARY: Monday, 9 th January 2005 , 7.30 pm , first Zimbabwe Forum of the new year. Upstairs at the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street , London WC2 (cross the Strand from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go down a passageway to John Adam Street , turn right and you will see the pub – nearest stations: Charing Cross and Embankment). Zimbabwean activist Grace Kwinjeh, the European Representative of the MDC, based in Brussels will talk on "The MDC Congress and the Future of the Party”. Grace is coming to UK attending the MDC district meeting in Birmingham on Sunday and has kindly responded to our request to give a talk to the Forum.
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