Banner
Vigil Diary Archive Apr - Jun 2006 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Saturday, 01 April 2006 00:00
26 th June 2006

DAY IN SUPPORT OF ZIMBABWEAN TORTURE SURVIVORS. The Vigil was well represented at a service at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square , to mark the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture organised by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum in association with the Zimbabwe Association, Redress and other organisations. Arnold Tsungu, Director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, outlined the worsening situation. Three Zimbabwean torture survivors brought home to everyone the horror of what is happening in Zimbabwe . They were joined by a Sudanese torture survivor, in solidarity with other countries suffering from similar horrors. Vigil supporter Sam (saxophone) brought the Zimbabwean musician Paul Lunga (trumpet) and they made a great contribution to the music, with Harriet (piano and violin). After the service we processed, bearing flowers and singing hymns, to the Zimbabwe Embassy. The flowers were laid on the steps of the Embassy and the evening concluded with a mass singing of Ishe Komberera / Nkosi Sikelele - much appreciated by passers-by.

Earlier in the day, Vigil supporters attended a meeting at the House of Lords commemorating the victims of organised violence and torture in Zimbabwe . The meeting was to launch two reports relating to torture, one by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation on Zimbabwean asylum seekers in South Africa , and one by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Ngo Forum on the outcomes of torture cases brought to the courts. It was well-attended by representatives of many Zimbabwean groups both from the UK and Zimbabwe . Several Vigil supporters pressed the case for everyone to join together to change Zimbabwe.

 

24 th June 2006

The deposed mayor of Harare , Engineer Elias Mudzuri, was a welcome support at the Vigil. He was introduced by Washington Ali , the Chair of MDC UK . Mr Mudzuri was thrown out of office by the Mugabe regime, which installed its own commissioners to oversee the collapse of local government. Mr Mudzuri is now the General Organising Secretary of the MDC and is in the UK to help sort out the MDC UK structure. He was very supportive of the Vigil and urged everyone to attend. He signed our petition which he said was in line with the MDC agenda. “ A petition to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan about human rights abuses in Zimbabwe : We are deeply disturbed at the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe . It seems as if the international community does not care that a rogue government can hold its people hostage. In the past six years up to a quarter of the population have fled the country. Half of those remaining face starvation. Any dissent is stamped on. The UN's special envoys have seen this for themselves and condemned the regime. We urge the UN Security Council to take measures to help free the suffering people of Zimbabwe .”

We were relieved to see our homeless Zimbabwean street sleeper, Munyaradzi, again. He was with us two weeks ago and was helped to find shelter by the Zimbabwe Association. He then disappeared and we were worried what might have happened to him. But he was back today in better heart. We are seeing so many people in need of our help.

In recent weeks, the Vigil has been approached by contacts in South Africa and Botswana about starting Vigils. We are thinking about how to advise them but realise their situation is totally different to ours. We have the freedom to hold regular protests – and the police and local authority give us permission. As our friends in Botswana say “ How can other Zimbabwean refugees in other countries of exile like us here in Botswana form a vigil? We are not allowed to embark on any political activities.”

FOR THE RECORD: 36 signed the register.

FOR YOUR DIARY:

•  Monday, 26 th June, 5.30 pm – special service, organised by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, Trafalgar Square, London, for Zimbabwean and Sudanese victims of torture to mark UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. We are pleased that the Zimbabwean community in the UK has linked with activists from another suffering African community. The service will be preceded by the laying of flowers at the Sudanese Embassy, 3 Cleveland Row, London SW1A 1DD at 5 pm . Flowers will be laid at the Zimbabwe Embassy after the service. During the service there will be speakers, commemorative music and cultural performances. ( Note from Central London Forum: “we will be attending this event in place of our regular Forum - hope you can join us there.”)

•  Qabuka : 28 th June – 15th July. A Zimbabwean theatrical production at the Oval House Theatre (Box Office 020 7582 7680). Some Vigil supporters are taking part. "Devised and improvised from the personal stories of over one hundred Zimbabweans-in-exile, Full Frontal Theatre presents a magical and exuberant look at the lives of Zimbabweans living in the UK . The last four years have seen thousands of people abandon a country in crisis – many fleeing persecution and torture – only to encounter Britain 's asylum system. QABUKA is a timely and at times spontaneous show, made in response to current and changing events that affect those exiled. A postcard from the edge which deftly finds the humour in tragedy and the mischief in tribulation."  For online booking and more information, check: www.ovalhouse.com

•  24 hour Vigil of Solidarity, 2 - 3 July: The United Network of Detained Zimbabweans, Zimbabwe Action Group, Zimbabwe Association, Free Zim, Zimbabwean Women's Network , Zimbabwe Vigil in conjunction with the Refuge Council invite you to spend time at their Vigil of Solidarity outside the Asylum & Immigration Tribunal.  T he fresh hearing by the Asylum & Immigration Tribunal into the ‘AA' case takes place this week.  The hearing will consider new evidence presented by the Home Office to support its contention that it is now safe for Zimbabweans who have sought refuge in the UK to be forcibly returned to the hands of Mugabe's Zanu PF regime.  The organisations involved call on the British government to: a) Recognize the risks faced by Zimbabweans who are deported, b) Halt deportation to Zimbabwe and c) Allow asylum seekers to apply for judicial review. Venue: Field House, Breams Buildings , Chancery Lane, London EC4A 1PR. Time:   Sunday 2 nd July 5.00pm until Monday 3 rd July 5.00pm . Contact: Noble Sibanda - 07888 643 689, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

17 th June 2006

Two new stars of the vigil: Wilfred Muzuwa, aged 12, and his brother Kudakwashe, aged 10. They are the sons of Patson Muzuwa, a Vigil stalwart from Leicester who is delighted to have been able to bring them over from Zimbabwe . It was a joy to welcome them and they immediately made themselves useful, both dressed in England football strip. Asked his impressions of England , Wilfred said “The people here are rich but they are also poor”. Patson, a torture survivor, is to feature in a Zimbabwean theatrical production ‘Qabuka', which runs from 28 th June – 15 th July at the Oval House Theatre (Box Office 020 7582 7680). The production is devised from the personal stories of over 100 Zimbabweans in exile.

One incident on a hot day: Wiz was confronted by a fellow with a raised finger. She thought “Oh help, more of Mugabe the saviour of Africa ”, but instead he said “Fantastic, we must get rid of these dictators in Africa ”. Attitudes among the Afro- Caribbean community do seem to be changing.

We were pleased our new friends from Brighton , Wellington and Alois, came back to spread the message of their youth organization, Free Zim: “Away with the rhetoric of the past. We must confront where we are today”. They have become firm supporters of the Vigil which they say was a catalyst for their initiative. We were also glad to have with us Mrs Biba and Lois who were asking for support for the WOZA protest (see below for details). Thanks to Clifford whose dancing energized the Vigil.

We were visited by a couple from Zimbabwe . They were violently thrown off their farm and the husband, who was very frail, has never recovered his health. Nevertheless, he plans to return soon to Zimbabwe .

Latest news on our evidence of torture to the UN. We have now been put in touch with Christina Saunders, the new person in charge of the Zimbabwe Desk on the Human Rights Council. She has been very encouraging and has asked us to resubmit our evidence (which we have done) so that she can ensure that it is followed through properly. You may not be aware that the UN Human Rights Commission (which had Zimbabwe as a member!) has been reformed and is now known as the UN Human Rights Council. Unlike its predecessor, in which members were elected by regional groups with the support of 28 or fewer countries, the new Council requires the agreement of 96 nations in a secret ballot. For the first time each member's human rights record will be scrutinised before and after elections. The Council will meet throughout the year, not just once a year, making it more responsive to human rights emergencies.

FOR THE RECORD: 52 signed the register.

FOR YOUR DIARY:

•  Monday, 19 th June , 7.30 pm – Zimbabwe Forum. This week there will be a social evening at the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street , London WC2 . We have lost the exclusive use of the upstairs room at the pub on 19 th and 26 th June because of the World Cup. The Forum will be meeting on 26 th June after the service at St Martin-in-the-Fields (see below) at a local venue still to be decided.

•  Tuesday, 20th June, 5 – 7 pm – WOZA UK will be holding a solidarity protest with WOZA in Zimbabwe outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand . London . WOZA is marking this day, World Refugee Day, because Zimbabweans are refugees in their own country. The theme this year is “Keeping the Flame of Hope Alive”. WOZA demands the right to earn a living.

•  Monday, 26 th June, 5.30 pm – special service, organised by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, Trafalgar Square, London, for Zimbabwean and Sudanese victims of torture to mark UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. We are pleased that the Zimbabwean community in the UK has linked with activists from another suffering African community.

 

10 th June 2006

Very hot – it must have touched 90 degrees F and scarcely changed during the Vigil. We were all grateful for the shade of the maple trees. The England victory in their first World Cup match kept up the temperature. The Strand was certainly quieter during the game but once it finished we had lots of England supporters signing our petitions and joining in the singing and dancing. Adding to the carnival atmosphere was a passing naked cyclist taking part in The World Naked Bike Ride in protest at our dependence on cars.

We were pleased to have with us two young Zimbabweans from Brighton , Alois Phiri and Wellington Chibanguza, who are part of a youth organization called “Free Zim”. They are launching a political awareness campaign aimed at young Zimbabweans in the diaspora. They reported that many young people they approached were ashamed to admit they were Zimbabweans – others said “We don't do politics”. The message was that they are making as much money as they can and as far as political change is concerned they would wait and see what happened. They also reported that many young Zimbabweans were having difficulty keeping up with the financial needs of their families back home.

It was good to have several supporters from Milton Keynes (Fadzanayi Muchenagumbo, Frank Sanena and Vandirai Zano) who are in the process of trying to set up an MDC branch.

Great to have back Carrie and Don Lapham, who visited the Vigil on 18 th June last year. They live in Harare and are active human rights workers through their church. Carrie informed us she had been keeping in touch with the Vigil through reports in the Zimbabwean and was delighted to be back again.

Warm wishes from the Vigil to Washington Ali , Chair of MDC-UK. His first daughter (and fourth child) was born this week. Name not decided yet but we rejoice in another Vigil baby.

Finally our condolences to Anna, one of the forum managers. We were sorry to hear that her mother has died.

FOR THE RECORD: 52 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, 12 th June: the speaker is Ephraim Tapa, Chair of MDC Central London Branch, trade unionist and international relations expert to discuss developments in the MDC at home and abroad. Of special interest is the new constitution that gives a new mandate by promoting the diaspora structures to provincial status.

 

3 rd June 2006

A week is a long time in politics they say. Well this week saw a complete turnaround for the Vigil – at least as far as the weather is concerned. From the cold and damp of last week we were magically transported to the hottest day of the year with Zimbabwean type sunshine sending people into the shade of our 4 maple trees. Off with the anoraks: it was t-shirts and summer clothes.

We were cheered by the endorsement of the Vigil by the MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai at his London meeting last Sunday. He urged more Zimbabweans to join us outside the Embassy and said it was an important part of the struggle. Passersby flocked to the Vigil in the sunshine and we had many signatures for our petition calling for UN intervention. Many of them said they'd seen the before and after photos of Porta Farm just released by Amnesty International. It brought home to them the reality of Murambatsvina and the hollowness of Mugabe's case. We need to update our showcase of Zimbabwean dollars. At the moment we have $42,000 buying half a loaf of bread – now we'll have to find loads more Zim dollars and build a bigger showcase as the price has shot up even higher.

We were pleased to be joined by some new supporters, including a lady who was tempted to but one of our “Make Mugabe History” wristbands but said her family wouldn't approve. They are Mugabe supporters even though they are claiming political asylum here – unfortunately you can't lose your family, she said.

There was some grand singing and dancing and we were filmed throughout by Jess Reynolds , a Zimbabwean documentary filmmaker living in New York City . She spent the whole afternoon with us and we hope one day we will be able to show the footage she took. She is interviewing other Zimbabwean groups and individuals and hopes to produce a comprehensive account of Zimbabwean life in the diaspora.

We were sad to hear that a Zimbabwean invited to address the Forum, Michael Mubaiwa, an expert in labour law, industrial relations and trade unions in Zimbabwe, who was to talk to us about the challenges currently being faced by Zimbabwean trade unions, died in a car accident in England 3 days before he was due to speak to us. The Vigil is helping his widow's lawyer in providing information to help her asylum case. We take this opportunity to offer her our condolences.

We had trouble closing down because one of our local street people was enjoying the Vigil so much she wanted to confiscate the scissors we use to cut down our banners. We told her to be back next week at 2 pm , when we expect the streets to be deserted as England is playing in the World Cup!

The Bristol Vigil tells us that they marked the anniversary of Murambatsvina last week: “Our vigil is attracting interest and we have some loyal supporters. We're sure this will grow - there are a surprising number of people who are drawn by the banner and come and tell us that they have connections with Zimbabwe . We hope in time all these people will become regular supporters. Last Saturday we all got very wet - and the petitions too! The site of the vigil, agreed by Bristol City Council, is on a paved area with nothing to attach a tarpaulin to - so umbrellas were all we had to keep the rain off.   We have four Zimbabwean women who come regularly and do a grand job with singing and dancing.” What they really need is a Zimbabwean with a drum – is there anyone in the South West who would like to help with drumming at their next Vigil on 24 th June? They would help with travel costs – contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you can help.

FOR THE RECORD: 48 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, 5 th June: The speaker is Tor-Hugne Olsen of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum who will speak on the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the upcoming AU Summit. He will also be putting forward ideas about the possibilities of getting support through African institutions.   For Archive Diary

 

28 th May 2006

Scores of Vigil supporters from all over the UK turned out for the MDC-UK's London meeting for Morgan Tsvangirai on Sunday, following hard on a meeting he addressed in Leeds on Saturday. It made Vigil Co-ordinator Dumi's day when he was greeted by the MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti with “You must be Dumi of the Vigil”. No doubt he had seen pictures in the Zimbabwean of Dumi's exuberant dancing. Another Vigil Co-ordiinator Rose was delighted to be remembered by Mr Tsvangirai from the last meeting she helped arrange for him at the Friends' Meeting Housing in London in November 2004. By the time Mr Tsvangirai gave his address the hall was full of expectant faces, warmed up by the singing and dancing and drumming on the stage led by Patson.

Mr Tsvangirai spoke about the MDC's recently unveiled Road Map aimed at resolving the Zimbabwe crisis. The message was that Mugabe must be forced to the negotiating table for talks about a transitional authority, a new constitution and free and fair elections. For details see Mr Tsvangirai's London press conference statement of 26 th May, weblink: http://www.swradioafrica.com/pages/savezim.htm . He said it would not be enough to replace Mugabe with Tsvangirai; a complete political transformation was required with the pillars of repression dismantled. “If Tsvangirai has to die for Zimbabwe let him be the sacrificial lamb. Nothing is as important as freedom,” he declared. The MDC leader urged an intensified isolation of the Mugabe regime and was puzzled by South Africa 's attitude. He said South Africa must do more to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis and he was going see President Mbeki to discuss this. Mr Tsvangirai indicated that he was disappointed at the failure of Zimbabweans in the diaspora to rally more strongly behind demonstrations such as those organised by the Vigil. “You must contribute,” he urged, “after all you are part of the struggle”.

The meeting was also addressed by Mr Biti, who gave an eloquent and comprehensive account of the situation facing the party, and by Grace Kwinjeh, the Deputy Secretary for International Affairs, and Elton Mangoma, the Deputy Treasurer General. Key messages were “If your house is on fire you expect you neighbours to help” and “Our neighbours are putting up fences as if we are game animals to be kept out”.

As always it was difficult to get people out of the venue when the time expired and groups of Zimbabweans could be seen gathering in the area for hours afterwards discussing the meeting. We are pleased to say that Vigil supporters helped to make this meeting possible, particularly Addley (who got up at 5.00 to cook sadza) and her team of helpers: Jane, Elena, Lynn, Valerie and Wendy; Wiz and Pauline who organised the other refreshments, Moses who was in charge of ushering, Harris who co-ordinated the food arrangements, (and to Mike who rescued Mr Tsvangirai's lost lunch!) Special thanks to Isau and Maria who missed everything to go and buy presents for our guests.

We have been asked to pass on a message from Ephraim Tapa, Chair of MDC Central London Branch who hosted the meeting. “My heartfelt thanks to all those who made this rally a resounding success and all the branches in southern region and those who came to support the event from the midlands and northern region. I hope our spirit of togetherness lives to be seen in future events.”

It was a meeting for all Zimbabweans and it ended with a great feeling of solidarity and confidence in the ability of Zimbabweans to deal with whatever is thrown at them.

For Morgan Tsvangirai's interview with Andrew Marr ( 28 th May 2006 ) on BBC Sunday AM: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/how_euro_are_you/5024890.stm

 

27 th May 2006

With all the problems in Zimbabwe it seems unfair to complain about the drought in England . But the trouble is that it does affect the yVigil. It never stopped raining. Our tarpaulin protected us from drowning and nothing could dampen our spirits: we were all greatly entertained by seeing people drenched when water cascaded from a build-up on the tarpaulin.

The Vigil was only one of the Zimbabwean events on offer in London this weekend. We sent a representative to a news conference at Parlaiment addressed by the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. It was hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe , chaired by Kate Hoey, MP, who, we were glad to say, spoke highly of the Vigil as representing the Zimbabwean diaspora. Mr Tsvangirai warned that if the democratic route failed the forces of violence, civil war and anarchy would take over.

The Vigil also sent representatives to the Dignity Period Fund Raiser organised by ACTSA on Friday night. It was addressed by Thabitha Khumalo, women's secretary of the ZCTU (Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions), who spoke movingly about her own abuse at the hands of the Mugabe regime. Immediately after the Vigil some people rushed off to a performance of “Breakfast with Mugabe”, a psychological portrait.

Despite the rain there was a very exuberant feeling with many people making plans to attend a meeting in London on Sunday to be addressed by Morgan Tsvangirai. A new supporter, Juliet, was waiting for us when we arrived. She was so efficient in helping us set up in the terrible drought! She also saw off a young Zimbabwean who asked how can you judge if elections are free and fair. He looked pretty sleek and we think he is probably the offspring of a Zanu-PF crony. Nevertheless it is disturbing that the likes of him are still swanning around when he should be grappling with the realities at home. We would like him to know that we are pressing the EU to extend targeted sanctions to the offspring of cronies.

FOR THE RECORD: 43 signed the register.

REMINDERS: 28 th May 2006 at 1 pm – Morgan Tsvangirai to address London Meeting – for venue and directions see diary entry below. 29 th May 2006 – there is no Zimbabwe Forum because it is a bank holiday.

25 th May 2005

MORGAN TSVANGIRAI TO ADDRESS SUPPORTERS AT A LONDON MEETING

On Sunday 28th May, the President of the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, will be addressing MDC members and supporters in London . The President will be accompanied by a delegation which includes: Tendai Biti (Secretary General); Elton Mangoma (Deputy Treasurer General); Grace Kwinjeh (Deputy Secretary for international affairs).

Venue: Main Hall (First Floor), South Ca md en Community School , Charrington Street , London NW1 1RD.

Date: Sunday, 28th May 2006

Time: 1pm - 4pm .

Directions:

•  From Euston Station, turn left into Euston Road , just before the British Library turn left into Ossulston Street . Ossulston Street leads into Charrington Street . The School is on the left. The Venue entrance is through glass doors engraved with "SCCS" near the end of Charrington Street .

•  From Kings Cross Station, turn right into Euston Road , just after the British Library turn right into Ossulston Street . Ossulston Street leads into Charrington Street . The School is on the left. The Venue entrance is through glass doors engraved with "SCCS" near the end of Charrington Street .

•  For those coming by car there is street parking on a Sunday.

 

20th May 2006

Solidarity with those at home demonstrating on the anniversary of the start of Murambatsvina was the theme of the Vigil. People brought new banners and posters expressing outrage at the forced removals. The Zimbabwean artist Kate Arnold joined us on a showery and blustery day: four of her dramatic pictures on the subject of Murambatsvina were on display. We were in contact with people involved in the Churches in Bulawayo procession. They reported that they were challenged by the authorities on their right to proceed with the procession. They took this to court and the judge allowed that the procession should go ahead. Throughout the procession they were accompanied by Police who directed them through a new route via back roads. The planned prayer meeting went ahead with around 300 attending. Recorded testimonies were played to protect the people involved from the teeming CIO at the service. There was a moving final ceremony where homeless women built a house from bricks in the church to symbolise their hopes for the future.

Despite our energetic drumming and singing we had to compete with megaphones in front and behind. Fortunately the one in front, wielded by an eccentric former boxe, soon failed. He used to be vehemently pro-Mugabe but we think we are winning him around. More vociferous were a group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators outside Charing Cross Police Station behind us, who were clamouring by megaphone for the release of an arrested supporter.

It was a full day. Patson, Jenatry , Victoria , Charles and Chipo from Leicester came down to London early to put on a ‘Vigil Performance' in the morning at a London further education college. It was well worth it – they were much appreciated. But it took its toll – by the end of the Vigil, the lion-hearted Patson was croaking like a frog. We were pleased to be joined by the Chair of MDC-UK District, Washington Ali , who came to urge everyone to attend a meeting arranged for next Sunday to be addressed by the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai who is paying a brief visit to the UK . (A venue has been found and details will be circulated early next week.)

Finally grateful thanks to Ben Evans without whose help we would all be much wetter. He is about 8 foot tall and helped us put up our tarpaulin in the swirling wind. His theatrical production ‘Qabuka' runs from 28 th June – 15 th July at the Oval House Theatre (Box Office 020 7582 7680). The production is devised from the personal stories of over 100 Zimbabweans in exile. Vigil supporters are in the cast.

FOR THE RECORD: 72 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, 22 nd May, the speaker is Explo Nani-Kofi  of ALISC (Africa Liberation Support Campaign) and on the editorial board of Kilombo, a magazine published by ALISC and sympathetic to pro-democracy groups in Zimbabwe .  He will be speaking about how we can make links with other African groups in the UK . Monday, 29 th May – public holiday so no forum.

   

13 th May 2006

The Vigil dancers were fascinated to see the Morris Men – English traditional dancers who gather in Trafalgar Square on the second Saturday of May. A London group, the Westminster Morris Men, wearing their distinctive costume, performed several intricate dances in the space next to the Vigil. This is the fourth year that we have been privileged to share our space with them. They were happy to pose for a group photo with us and many of them signed our petitions and expressed sympathy for our cause.

There was a sense of great excitement in London , with many people crowding pubs to watch the football cup final on television. The weather was kind to us with the threatened rain holding off. Our 4 maple trees are now in full leaf and look wonderful. The changing seasons here are very marked and come as a surprise to Zimbabweans.

We are always humbled by the trouble people take to come and join us. Nomuhle with her toddler came all the way from Liverpool and Tafara from Manchester . Hats off to Dumi who still pitched up despite a train delay which meant it took him four and a half hours to come to London from Southampton . It was sad to say farewell to Kath O'Dea who has done so much to raise awareness of the situation in Zimbabwe by lobbying members of Parliament. She is going to Australia to be with her mother and the Vigil wishes her bon voyage. It was good to welcome back Kate Arnold – she is an Zimbabwean artist who is planning an exhibition about Murambatsvina. We hope to display some of her work in the future. Another creative person, Ben Evans , joined the Vigil. He staged the Zimbabwe show, Qabuka, in London last year and is starting rehearsals for a new Zimbabwean production shortly.

This month is the anniversary of the beginning of Murambatsvina. Next Saturday, 20 th May, the Vigil is holding a demonstration in sympathy with the Churches in Bulawayo , who are having a peaceful procession on that day, and other events in Zimbabwe to mark this tragic anniversary. Please make every effort to join us as it's important to have a big presence to remind the British public of the appalling human rights record of Zimbabwe .

FOR THE RECORD: 53 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, 15 th May, 7.30 pm – another regular a ction planning forum : discussion and decisions on campaigns and demos. Monday, 22 nd May, the speaker is Explo Nani-Kofi  of ALISC (Africa Liberation Support Campaign) and on the editorial board of Kilombo, a magazine published by ALISC and sympathetic to pro-democracy groups in Zimbabwe .  He will be speaking about how we can make links with other African groups in the UK .

 

6 th May 2006

London was transfixed by a crazy elephant – not Mugabe but a mechanical 40 foot high giant created by a French theatre group. It was lovely to see so many children being taken to Trafalgar Square to see the “Sultan's Elephant” on its tour of London . Being here every Saturday for nearly 4 years we are part of the local pageant. Our banners: “No to Mugabe, No to Starvation”, “Stop Murder, Rape and Torture in Zimbabwe” and “Wake up World! Zimbabwe is Dying!” confront visitors to all these Trafalgar Square events. People are immediately sympathetic and readily sign our petition calling for UN intervention in Zimbabwe . But there are a variety of other interactions – for example today: a pan-Africanist Congolese who was very much pro-Mugabe, an angry white man who seemed to think that Zimbabwe should be left to fend for itself, an Afghan student who interviewed us all for her final piece of work to complete her degree, and a Russian who was also pro-Mugabe because he is supposedly socialist.

We were very grateful to have Mr Pizza Man who, as always, brought us pizza and coffee even though he is not Zimbabwean and has never visited the country. When Zimbabwe is free we must reciprocate and give him a good time in Zimbabwe .

Although we had wonderful sunny weather most of the week, we had rain for the whole of the Vigil, including a dramatic moment when one corner of the tarpaulin broke loose and flooded the Vigil table, soaking the petitions and flyers. Passers-by were fascinated by a new feature of the Vigil – a board with Zim $42,000 fanned out showing how much half a loaf of bread cost.

Glad to hear from the Bristol Vigil that they had a good day last week at a new venue at the Hippodrome at the city centre. They have printed flyers to hand out to the public and posted us the signed petitions. They are keeping a visitors' list and are planning a visitors' diary of people's stories about living in Zimbabwe . They made a collection which they are sending to ACTSA for the Dignity Period campaign. The Bristol Vigil advises us that the Perian Centre in Bristol will be hosting Refugee Week events commencing 19 th June. The Centre will be devoting 22 nd June to Zimbabwe and the Bristol Vigil will be manning a stand on that day.

FOR THE RECORD: 41 signed the register – lower numbers this week because some supporters were attending an MDC meeting in Leicester .

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, 8 th May, 7.30 pm – There will be two speakers: (1) Michael Mubaiwa, an expert in labour law, industrial relations and trade unions in Zimbabwe , who has worked in Zimbabwe as a lecturer and human resources consultant. He will be talking about the challenges currently being faced by Zimbabwean trade unions. (2) Bruce MacKay from South Africa who is an international officer for Unison, one of the largest unions in the UK . He will be giving us some ideas about how we can gain support for Zimbabwe with UK trade unions. Monday, 15 th May, 7.30 pm – another regular a ction p lanning forum : discussion and decisions on campaigns and demos .

 

29 th April 2006

NOTICE : We have become aware that some people are wrongly claiming to represent the Vigil. To make things clear these are the Vigil officials who can speak on behalf of the Vigil: Dumi Tutani, Evelyn Tafirenyika, Rose Benton (Vigil Co-ordinators), Julius Mutyambizi-Dewa (Vigil Spokesperson) and Ephraim Tapa (Advocacy Representative). If you are doubtful of anyone purporting to represent the Vigil, please email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and we will advise.

 

29 th April 2006

Lots of past supporters returned to the Vigil. They were senior members of the MDC in the UK who had broken away from the party in support of the pro-Senate faction in Zimbabwe . They took the opportunity of the Vigil publicly to distance themselves from the splinter group and express full support for the Vigil's mission to campaign for free and fair elections. Silence Chihuri, former MDC UK Treasurer, spoke on behalf of the group, which included Givemore Chindawi (former MDC UK Deputy Organising Secretary). Silence said it had become clear that the splinter group was a doomed project and would only serve to strengthen Zanu-PF.

We are now sure that winter is over: we saw our first bagpiper of the year. Not only saw him but captured him and his playing prompted Vigil dancers to do a Zimbabwean version of the Scottish reel. McGabe, as he was dubbed, was so enthusiastic that he took a kilt out of his bag and put it on. Our ladies were surprised to find that what is said about men wearing kilts is true. The dancing was so exuberant that it drew lots of people passing by from a rally in nearby Trafalgar Square , “Rock against Racism”. Thanks to Patric Gore who generously bought soft drinks for the thirsty Vigil dancers and we were also delighted to have a large group from Leicester again after their unfortunate breakdown on the motorway last time they tried to come.

e are pleased to let you know that this week's Vigil photos have been downloaded onto a web page, check: http://uk.msnusers.com/ZimbabweVigil/shoebox.msnw to view them. For security reasons we haven't posted pictures to the web in the past but we have consulted widely and people are in favour of it. If anyone pictured is unhappy, please contact us: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and we will remove the relevant photo immediately.

  FOR THE RECORD: 75 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, 1 st May – no forum, Monday, 8 th May, 7.30 pm – The speaker is Tor Hugne-Olsen of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.  

 

22 nd April 2006

What a wonderful day: bathed in gentle, warm sunshine, our 4 maple trees bursting into leaf. And such thrilling drumming by Bie Tapa and Mike Bennett with the dancing led with Spring exuberance by Vigil Co-ordinators Dumi Tutani and Evelyn Tafirenyika.

Joining in was the Rev Dr Martine Stemerick whose filmed reports about what is happening in Zimbabwe provide such powerful ammunition for our cause. (She is to speak at the Zimbabwe Forum on Monday, see below.) Also with us was Yvonne Mahlunge, a lawyer and MDC activist who works tirelessly for Zimbabwean asylum seekers.

It was very moving to have such a rich mixture of people joining hands in a wide circle outside the trees to sing the national anthem. This always attracts attention from passers-by. By then we have already taken down our banners and all we are left with is the Zimbabwean flag.

Welcome back to Wiz who had just returned from a trip to Zimbabwe and Mozambique to visit her sister, Cathy Buckle (see: http://africantears.netfirms.com ). She brought back many interesting stories about life in Zimbabwe and a thick wad of Zimbabwean bank notes which we displayed as only buying half a loaf of bread in Zimbabwe .

News from Angie and Alex Guinness: a baby sister for Callum was born this week. They did such useful work for us updating our “Mugabe wanted for murder” poster, listing the victims of the Zanu-PF regime. We look forward to meeting Elin soon to join other Vigil babies including Simba, son of Lotricia and Japan who came today, and the Vigil child Tinotenda Muzuwa.

The Vigil was pleased that three young men who have just graduated from Peterhouse sought us out and knew that there are people here who are trying to help Zimbabwe .

FOR THE RECORD: 51 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, 24 th April, 7.30 pm - Rev Martine Stemerick will give a video presentation about what is happening to the poor in Zim babwe including interviews with Pius Ncube . Monday, 1 st May – bank holiday. No forum.

 

15th April 2006

Mugabe Must Go Now was the Independence Day message from the UK . The Vigil hosted a highly-charged demonstration by the MDC-UK attended by branches from Leicester, Manchester, Grays, Coventry, Oxford, Reading and elsewhere, including Southend represented by the MDC-UK Chair, Washington Ali . The demonstrators' demands were summed up by Crispen Kulinji, whose torture by the Mugabe regime was part of our recent submission to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva . Crispen received a letter from Geneva this week acknowledging the evidence we had sent in support of our petition about torture in Zimbabwe (see Vigil diary, 25 th February). The UN tells us that our evidence has been sent to the authorities in Zimbabwe for their response. We await it with bated breath! Today Crispen, had his own message for Mugabe: “How can you celebrate Independence when you have one of the worst dictatorships in the world. Can you please leave. Even the army doesn't want you. Remember we are all children of God and please can you deliver freedom this Easter.”

There was a wonderful spirit of camaraderie at the Vigil – a feeling that we were all moving forward together despite the dismal English Spring (with rain on us and no-one else!). As well as marking Independence Day, the demonstration was in solidarity with other MDC demonstrations around the world, particularly Canada , and with the MDC mass rallies in Zimbabwe .

During the week Vigil delegates had a useful meeting with Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials. The meeting stemmed from our submission of a petition to the British government asking for tougher measures against the Mugabe regime (see Vigil diary, 28 th January). We pointed out, among other things, that the diaspora represents people who cannot express themselves freely at home and that the diaspora must not be overlooked in considerations about the future of Zimbabwe . We also outlined our plans for an Advocacy Group to spread the Vigil mission to organisations around the world.

People were disappointed at the outcome of the Court of Appeal ruling on Zimbabwean asylum seekers this week. The case has been referred back to the Tribunal for reconsideration so the position of Zimbabwean asylum seekers remains the same for the time being. The Zimbabwe Association is seeking information on 1) voluntary returns to Zimbabwe (from 2002 - 2006) and 2) forced returns between November 2004 and July 2005. This information is needed to continue the fight and will be treated in strictest confidence ( contact details: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Tel: 020 7549 0355, Fax: 020 7549 0356).

FOR THE RECORD: 79 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, 17 th April – no forum, Monday, 24 th April, 7.30 pm - Rev Martine Stemerick will give a video presentation about what is happening to the poor in Zim babwe including interviews with Pius Ncube .

   

8 th April 2006

Definitely a feeling of Spring in the air, with buds beginning to emerge on the bare branches of our four maple trees.

It was good to see an old supporter Luka back at the Vigil. He has just come out after three months in detention. He said how wonderful it was to be free and immediately made himself useful, engaging passers-by and directing them to sign our petition. To remind readers, it says: “ A PETITION TO UN SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN ZIMBABWE: We are deeply disturbed at the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe . It seems as if the international community does not care that a rogue government can hold its people hostage. In the past six years up to a quarter of the population have fled the country. Half of those remaining face starvation. Any dissent is stamped on. The UN's special envoys have seen this for themselves and condemned the regime. We urge the UN Security Council to take measures to help free the suffering people of Zimbabwe .”

Like many others, Luka will be anxious about the court case on Wednesday which will make a decision on Zimbabwean asylum seekers. Sarah of the Zimbabwe Association came to the Vigil and encouraged supporters to attend the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand .

It was also good to welcome back Fadzanayi Muchenagumbo. She came to the MDC-UK protest at the Vigil a few weeks back and has been galvanising support for us. She brought a group of four from Milton Keynes to the Vigil and plans to bring more people in the future. Vigil spokesperson, Julius Mutyambizi -Dewa, was pleased to see acquaintances from Zimbabwe among a group from Slough . We are getting a large number of new people every week, many of whom are coming back again.

We had our oldest Vigil visitor ever. Tiny with white hair and a stick, she joined in and had a great time dancing with Dumi, one of our Vigil co-ordinators. Many people commented on the beautiful singing. We had quite an audience for the national anthem at the end of the Vigil.

FOR THE RECORD: 51 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, 10 th April, 7.30 pm – a ction p lanning : discussion and decisions on c ampaigns and demos . A REMINDER: there will be no forum on Easter Monday, 17 th April – the forum does not meet on public holidays.

 

1st April 2006

We were pleased to have with us Adella Chiminya, whose husband, Tichaona, was one of the first MDC victims of the Zanu-PF regime. He was Morgan Tsvangirai's campaign manager and was burnt to death by Mugabe's people six years ago while police stood by. His name features on the roll of honour displayed at the front of the Vigil under the headline “Mugabe wanted for murder”. The people who have caused the devastation in Zimbabwe will not escape justice. Adella was clearly cheered by the Vigil and has promised to come again. Among newcomers to the Vigil was Jethro from Derby , who arrived early in a rather depressed state and was elated by the time he left on his long journey home.

The Vigil was enlivened by a group of exuberant supporters from Leicester and the powerful singing and drumming drew in many passers- by. They included two groups of young Londoners dressed in everything from ball gowns to top hats. Shortly after they left the near perfect weather was suddenly interrupted by a sharp downpour. Never has our tarpaulin been raised so quickly.

There was an under-delivery of the Zimbabwean this week and many were disappointed not to be able to buy one. But everyone got a chance to look at a copy. Talking of newspapers, the recent drought in stories about Zimbabwe has been broken with a vengeance with a two- page spread in the Sunday Times: “Desperate mothers throw away 20 babies a week as Zimbabwe starves” – http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,176-2114280,00.html . We doubt whether it will make much impact on the pointy-shoed Zimbabwean ladies seen going in and out of the Embassy today with their expensive shopping bags.

FOR THE RECORD: 75 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, 3 rd April, 7.30 pm – Peter Tatchell will talk on how to campaign effectively to put Zimbabwe on the UK agenda.

•  Monday, 10 th April, 7.30 pm – Action Planning – Discussion and decisions on Campaigns and demos .
 

How can you help?

The Zimbabwe Vigil exists entirely on donations from the public and well wishers. You can help us by donating via a deposit into our account Thank you.