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Vigil Diary Archive Jan - Feb 2008 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 10 August 2016 20:53
26 th February 2008 – Tendai Chishanu RIP

It is with great sadness we announce the death of Vigil supporter and friend of so many of us, Tendai Chishanu . She was hurt in a car accident in December and continued getting headaches through January. After several hospital checks, a scan revealed swelling of the brain. She was given medication but died suddenly on Sunday morning (24 th February). Her child In Zimbabwe died on the same day but Tendai never knew this. She is remembered warmly by many Vigil supporters and we grieve with her family.

 

23 rd February 2008

A cold day marked the end of our sixth February outside the Embassy. Spring is almost here in the UK inspiring us with the promise of renewal and growth. For Mugabe on his 84 th birthday only winter lies ahead. Vigil Co-ordinator Rose shared birthday celebrations with Mugabe. Her celebrations were much lower key, with not a balloon in sight. We shared a cake to mark the occasion and Rose was given a large golden piggy bank by supporter Mary Ndoro. Rose in response to the warm greetings of supporters said ‘Over the years of our protest the Vigil has become a family and I have made many good friends amongst supporters.'

Among those drawn to see the Vigil was an actor in Oscar Wilde's play ‘The Importance of being Earnest' showing just down the road. He said his grandmother in Zimbabwe had been robbed 3 times and beaten. A young woman from the BBC French Africa service joined us to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe . With the elections only a month away it is important to keep up public awareness. We publish on the Vigil website a report by our partners in Zimbabwe , ROHR (Restoration of Human Rights) about their demonstration in Harare last month. As the organizer Sten says ‘Freedom has a price. If need be, I am prepared to pay the price.' We salute our brave comrades at this critical time.

While Patson Muzuwa and Dumi Tutani led the singing and dancing, 14 month-old Zizi Tutani, who has become very mobile, wandered off. Fortunately Arnold Kuwewa noticed his flashing shoes and raced to save him when his ‘walk of death' nearly took him into the busy Strand .

FOR THE RECORD: 125 signed the register.

FOR YOUR DIARY:

•  Monday, 25 th February 2008 at 7.30 pm. Central London Zimbabwe Forum. The forum will discuss action on the elections. Venue: Bell and Compass, 9-11 Villiers Street, London, WC2N 6NA, next to Charing Cross Station at the corner of Villiers Street and John Adam Street.

•  Saturday, 8 th March 2008 , 12 – 1.30 pm . Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) Rally for Dignity! and Democracy in Zimbabwe on International Women's Day in Trafalgar Square , London . Speakers include: Lucia Matibenga, Vice-President Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Takavafira Zhou , President, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Maureen Kademaunga , Gender and Human Rights Officer, Zimbabwe National Students' Union . The rally is followed by the Zimbabwe Vigil outside the Zimbabwean Embassy at 14.00 and at 15.30 the Million Women Rise Rally to end violence against women in Trafalgar Square . More information on www.actsa.org .  Please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or phone 020 3263 2001 to let ACTSA know if you are coming

•  Saturday, 29 th March 2008 , 6 am – 6 pm : Zimbabwe Vigil's diaspora polling station and mock ballot.

 

ROHR ZIMBABWE (RESTORATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS) - REPORT ON THE JANUARY 25 DEMONSTRATION

This brief report seeks to record the dedication, commitment and bravery of all ROHR Zimbabwe activists who took part in the January 25 demonstration against human rights affronts to the people of Zimbabwe . We also recognise the support of our partner the Zimbabwe Virgil who have remained steadfast in the fight for the restoration of people's rights and fundamental freedoms. The partnership with the Zimbabwe Vigil has enabled our struggle to take place on many fronts which not only increases the pressure on the oppressive leadership of Zanu PF but helps amplify our voice to the international community

BACKGROUND

ROHR will go undeterred on a national offensive and continue to hold unsanctioned demonstrations across the nation to pressure the government towards levelling the electoral field ahead of the March presidential elections and to desist from intimidating the citizens from expressing their will. We have noticed with grave concern that the dialogue process between the ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has not yielded anything meaningful to help suffering Zimbabweans. The socio-economic and political crisis continues to intensify as we head towards another presidential election. The Mugabe-led ruling party remains unrepentant and continues to strengthen its hold on power at the people's expense.

In particular, the electoral environment remains largely uneven. Further, the government of Zimbabwe has reneged on promises it made to President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa regarding the progressive review of legislation such as AIPPA and POSA and its commitment to introducing democracy. The infrastructure of violence – especially the green bombers -is still intact. Although the youth militia has been demobilized to give an impression of peace and tranquillity prevailing in the country, their presence within communities remains a pillar of Zanu PF's intimidation machinery.

Despite some minor and cosmetic changes which the ZANU PF politburo has introduced such as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) that is supposed to independently administer elections, the electoral laws remain heavily weighted in favour of the incumbent. Electoral processes and institutions continue to be militarized and politicized.

Our programme of action as ROHR is to counter Zanu PF's strategies to steal the election. We will unleash a series of demonstrations across the nation to achieve the following objectives:

•  Moulding the spirit of resistance amongst the people of Zimbabwe to defend their vote through pockets of demonstrations country wide.

•  Pressuring the government of Zimbabwe to level the electoral field before the elections.

•  Putting Zimbabwe on the agenda through street protest, defying repressive laws such as POSA.

•  Creating awareness of human rights violations, locally, regionally and internationally

•  Ensuring that the citizenry is empowered with relevant information so that they can make informed decisions as to who should govern them.

DEMONSTRATION

The recently held march had great impact and the response has been overwhelming. Over 200 people participated. 26 people were arrested, including Sten Zvorwadza. 24 Activists were brutally and mercilessly assaulted by the Zimbabwean police turned Zanu-PF agents of oppression. The wounded spent more than 10 hours at Harare central holding cells. They were released around 23.00 hrs and rushed to a clinic. Chairman Tichanzii Gandanga was released the same Friday but Sten Zvorwadza had to spend the whole weekend languishing in the cells.

The demonstration marks another stage in our action plan and we are set to increase the number of participants in the demonstrations to come. We are encouraged by the spirit shown by Zimbabweans to commit and take part in the process to fight for their freedoms.

IMPACT ASSESSMENT

•  The demonstration boosted the people's confidence and courage in the fight for human rights. The general public is calling at our offices to find out when we are holding our next demonstration.

•  The demonstration helped to expose that no change has been brought about by the SADC talks.

•  It managed to expose that the ruling party is unwilling to create a conducive environment for a free and fair election come 29 th March. The arrest and brutal assault of members who took part in the demonstration is a clear indication that the state is still bent on using the police and army to intimidate and instil fear in the general public.

•  The demonstration attracted wide media coverage. We got coverage from local, regional and international organisations such as the Zimbabwean, the Standard, SW Radio Africa, VOA Africa Radio, to mention but a few.

•  We got positive feedback from various stakeholders. We received phone calls from embassies including the Norwegians, Dutch, Danish, British, Americans and many others.

•  Increased our networking capacity. Numerous organisations volunteered support in different ways after the demonstration – to mention but a couple, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

THE WAY FORWARD

•  Our greatest challenge is putting together adequate resources to ensure that our plan will not leave our participants exposed at the hands of the merciless illegitimate government. We require funding in the following areas:

•  Transport expenses in mobilising people to the venue of action and back to their homes.

•  Production of campaign material in the form of banners, placards, posters etc.

•  Refreshments for the participants

•  Transport logistics for the casualties

•  Medication expenses to supplement the available facilities.

•  Transport fees for patients attending reviews/check ups

ROHR Bank Account

Donations can be paid into our UK bank account:

Bank: Barclays

Sort Code: 20-46-60

Account Name: ROHR Zimbabwe

Account Number: 20204870

16 th February 2008

The Vigil was joined by activists from WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise). They helped us tell passers-by about the trials and tribulations in Zimbabwe . Lois Davies of WOZA UK has just arrived back from Zimbabwe and gave us a first hand account of the recent Valentine's Day demonstrations by WOZA. It seems that the police in Bulawayo did not want to break up the WOZA demonstration as they appeared on the scene after the demonstrators had dispersed. Protesters in Harare were not so lucky.

We're glad to say that Sten Zvorwadza of our partner organisation Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR Zimbabwe) has been released from custody and is recovering from his beating by the Zimbabwe authorities. He says he is being closely watched.

On a bitterly cold day we were warmed by our common determination to continue our protest until there is change in Zimbabwe . We discussed our plan to be outside the Embassy from 6 am to 6 pm on Election Day, 29 th March. Come and vote at the Vigil Polling Station, probably the only one where the ballot will not be rigged.

Several supporters of the Vigil are to attend a church service on Sunday addressed by the new Bishop of Harare, Sebastian Bakare, at St Mary's Church, Speldhurst in Kent . Bishop Bakare is expected to talk about the travails of his diocese, where the former Bishop, Norbet Kunonga, a Mugabe supporter, is refusing to relinquish authority.

FOR THE RECORD: 195 signed the register.

FOR YOUR DIARY:

•  Monday, 18 th February 2008 at 7.30 pm. Central London Zimbabwe Forum. Political analyst Dr Magonya, a former treasurer of Imbovane Yamahlabezulu, is joined on the panel by an MDC activist to discuss the Makoni / Mutambara alliance and other issues to do with the presidential race. Venue: d ownstairs function room of the Bell and Compass, 9-11 Villiers Street , London , WC2N 6NA , next to Charing Cross Station at the corner of Villiers Street and John Adam Street .

•  Friday, 22 nd February 2008 at 7.30 pm .An evening with the former Zimbabwean cricketer Henry Olonga. In co-operation with Teddington-based international relief organisation Tearfund, Henry will be performing his music and talking about Zimbabwe . Tickets at £5 available from Tearfund or at the door. Venue: Teddington Baptist Church , Church Road , Teddington , TW11 8PF . For further information and tickets please contact: Tim Creber (020 7745 7357, 07731 446 868), Jonathan Spencer (020 8943 7901), Matthew Hancock (07756 114 405).

•  Saturday, 29 th March 2008 , 6 am – 6 pm : Zimbabwe Vigil's diaspora polling station and mock ballot.

 

10 th February 2008

News Release from the Zimbabwe Vigil

The Zimbabwe Vigil says that Stendrick  Zvorwadza of its partner organisation, Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR Zimbabwe), has again been detained by police in Harare . The Vigil said it had received a text message from Sten today. It read “I have been brutalized by soldiers and arrested for saying Zanu PF is causing the suffering of Zimbabweans. I am in police custody and am in pain. Have been denied treatment. Despite all this, my spirit for fighting for our rights is getting stronger by day.” Sten was held for several days last month after speaking at a gathering of some 200 supporters.

 

9th February 2008

Warm spring-like weather cheered everyone. The sun shone brightly and here we were in Vigil t-shirts in the middle of winter. It made us feel perhaps miracles would happen in Zimbabwe as well.

No sooner had we set up our banners and posters than a passer-by asked us ‘Why aren't you doing this in Zimbabwe '. We were able to say we are doing this in Zimbabwe through our partners ROHR (Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe ), who are campaigning bravely for freedom and justice. There was another meeting today to discuss how we in the UK diaspora can further support their efforts.

Next Saturday we are hosting a demonstration by the UK branch of WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise). Their message is: "This year WOZA will be dedicating their Valentine's Day actions to the children of Zimbabwe and saying: Our education system is being allowed to collapse and our children's future is being sacrificed on the altar of political power by a bunch of corrupt, insensitive, selfish thieves. Can we continue to keep quiet whilst our children are robbed of their future?”

One of our supporters is also hosting the new Anglican Bishop of Harare , Sebastian Bakare, who will be in Britain on a short visit. We know how tight his schedule is, but we are inviting him to the Vigil next week to tell us about the confrontation with Mugabe's Bishop Kunonga, whose outrageous behaviour has distressed Anglicans around the world.

We were pleased to have with us Vikki Farrell , who visited Zimbabwe in 2006 and is creating a 5m X 2.5m tapestry / collage to express what is happening in Zimbabwe . She was delighted at the energy of the Vigil and she took photos which will feature in the piece, which will be on display at the University of Brighton public gallery from 3 rd to 5 th March.

There was a ripple of excitement at the Vigil when a white van bearing the words “Freight forwarding to Zimbabwe and other African states” pulled up outside the Embassy. But no, the staff of the Embassy did not get in. They do not seem to have any desire to forego the fleshpots of London for the potholes of Harare .

Not that they aren't kept busy. Embassy staff and other Mugabe supporters were out in force at two high profile meetings in London this week also attended by Vigil supporters. The first, organised by a think tank, the Global Strategy Forum, was held on Tuesday at the National Liberal Club. It was chaired by the former Africa Minister, Chris Mullen, MP. We were appalled that the Mugabe apologist George Shire was invited to speak. He claims to be an independent-minded academic but we pointed out at the meeting that he had been the mainstay of a pro-Mugabe demonstration at the Lisbon AU / EU summit last December, supported by young ladies who could speak no English or any Zimbabwean languages. Mr Shire blustered that the African Union was obliged to provide a counter demonstration to the anti-Mugabe protesters (us)!

A Zimbabwean stood up and said ‘I am 68 years old. I fought in the .Liberation War. I am a supporter of Mugabe.' The same gentleman gave the same odd little speech at a seminar on Zimbabwe organised by the Royal United Services Institute Africa Programme on Thursday. The Vigil knows that a huge proportion of the Zimbabwean budget goes to maintain the Mugabe's propaganda offensive – but this was risible. People found it difficult to keep a straight face.

It was good to have Chipo Chaya back with us today after her bereavement and illness. Her hard work has been greatly missed. She asked us to pass on her thanks for all the support she got from her friends at the Vigil.

FOR THE RECORD: 213 signed the register.

FOR YOUR DIARY:

•  Saturday, 16 th February 2008 , 2 – 4 pm – outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, London . WOZA Valentine's Day Action.

•  Saturday, 29 th March 2008 , 6 am – 6 pm – Zimbabwe Vigil's diaspora polling station and mock ballot.

 

2 nd February 2008

A cold day with a bitter wind from the North. But crushed together between the maple trees, the dancing and singing kept us warm. We had people down from Manchester and Liverpool where it was snowing and also an old friend from Newcastle , Fanuel Kapumha, who brought his own (very superior) drum. Also with him was Jerry Mtolela, another musician from the early days. Fanuel now has something of a Geordie accent.

We were relieved to hear from Sten of our partner Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR Zimbabwe) that he had been released from custody on Monday. A text message from him today read “The whole country has no electricity. We are in total darkness. The government continues to lie to the people about the electricity situation. The truth is that ‘failure to govern Zimbabwe ' is the sole cause. Police brutality is getting worse with each passing day. Zanu PF is once again using intimidatory tactics to rig the forthcoming imposed election. If the MDC goes for the election they are wasting people's time. We want real change not just change.” Other news from Zimbabwe has been sent to us by Forward, a journalist living in the UK . It was so graphic we have put the whole email on our diary (see below).

Patson Muzuwa from Leicester led the singing and drumming and announced the Vigil plans for election day on 29 th March. The Vigil has booked the space outside the Embassy from 6 am that morning and plans to set up a polling station and conduct a mock ballot that day. More information about this as plans develop. All Zimbabweans and sympathizers welcome. We have reliable information that Mr Mugabe will be there himself as he was at our demo in Lisbon . He will show the media how to stuff a ballot box.

We are happy to host a demonstration for Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) organised by WOZA UK . They plan Valentine's action from 1 – 3 pm on Saturday, 16 th February. Come early to support our brave friends in WOZA.

News from friends around the UK . The Zimbabwe Solidarity Campaign in Belfast held a Vigil outside City Hall today from 1pm to 3pm . The Vigils are now held monthly, on the first Saturday of every month. Our friends in Bristol report that they are still holding Vigils. The last one was on 26 th January. Patrick Dziba and his wife Maud who have made heroic efforts to get to the Vigil recently phoned this morning to say they had called a meeting with Zimbabweans in Glasgow to map a way forward to star t a Vigil in Glasgow . We look forward to hearing about their plans.

A new role for the Vigil. We have Geordie Zimbabweans but today came a black British actor, Nicholas Bailey (of Eastenders), who is to play Mugabe's bodyguard in a production of “Breakfast with Mugabe” in the Ustinov Theatre in Bath from 22 nd February – 22 nd March (http:// www .theatreroyal.org.uk/). He was worried that Zimbabweans in the audience would laugh at his Zimbabwean accent and his pronunciation of Shona so sensibly he came to the Vigil for some coaching.

Here is the email from Zimbabwe mentioned above: “Hope you're fine. We're struggling. Now as you must have heard we're signing $10billion cheques bro! The RTGS is 'allegedly' offline, so individuals and companies have had their cheque limits raised from $500 million to a whopping $10 billion. Not that it is really a lot of money. Looks bad, but its getting worse and we can't even imagine how deeper we have to sink before things star t getting better. Prices of virtually everything have again gone up no less than two-fold since last week! We bought a quart of Castle lager for $3 million last week then $6 million on Tuesday and $7million yesterday! Civil servants who received even up to 6000% increments in some instances are galloping back to square one barely two months after the increments and who knows when the next pay rise is going to be! Basic commodities continue to be in short supply. In fact the economy is crumbling right in our eyes and we are helpless. Now we are headed for yet another disputed election which literally means a deeper catastrophe! And our rural folk are so scared of the ruling party the only political discussion you hear them partake in is about the Zanu PF primaries, as if thats the beginning and the end of the election. You ask them if they do not see how their lives have changed they collectively tell you not to put them in trouble by getting them to discuss anything to do with the MDC. But one by one they will tell you how much they have been threatened. The tragedy is that they are so convinced and they really believe it would be known and they would be in deep shit if they do anything outside Zanu PF, no matter how much they are also aware how that same Zanu PF has messed their lives and their children's. They have wounds and graves to show to justify their fear. They say its better to suffer alive than to see and endure what they have already seen and especially what they have been 'promised' this time round. What with chiefs driving brand new Mazdas filled with free fuel; new tractors which they fleece villagers with (they charge for tillage and pocket the money). And headmen have their new scotch-carts, ploughs, harrows, seed, fertilizer, etc. Agriculturally my brother, Zimbabwe is headed, not for a Mother of all Agricultural Seasons but the Grandmother of all Agricultural Disasters! Even the oldest granny in the rural areas tells you we are facing a dreadful drought. Crops are all waterlogged, most of them a complete right off! God help us. Sorry to take so much of your time updating you. But there is so much more happening everywhere you look. People no longer know how or where to adjust their lifestyles to! “

FOR THE RECORD: 217 signed the register.

FOR YOUR DIARY:

•  Monday 4 th February at 7.30 pm. Central London Zimbabwe Forum. A speaker from the Zimbabwe NGO Human Rights Forum will update us on the recent AU meeting in Addis Ababa . This week's venue is t he Strand Continental Hotel, 143 The Strand, WC2R 15A. Directions: 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 between Somerset House and the turn off onto Waterloo Bridge . The entrance is a doorway onto the street, with a big sign high above indicating it is the Hotel Strand Continental and a sign for its famous Indian restaurant at street level. It's next to a newsagent.

•  Saturday, 16 th February 2008 , 1 – 3 pm outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, London . WOZA Valentine's Day Action.

•  Saturday, 29 th March 2008 , 6 am – 6 pm outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, London . Zimbabwe Vigil's diaspora polling station and mock ballot.

 

26 th January 2008

Taking today into account, our average attendance this month has been more than 250. This must reflect growing anxiety about the situation in Zimbabwe . Two-hundred-and-fifty people phoning home gives us a lot of information and we know conditions on the ground are not ready for free and fair elections.

Stendrick Zvorwardza of our partner, Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR Zimbabwe), is – as we write this – still in custody. He was leading a group of 200 ROHR supporters in a demonstration in Harare on Friday carrying banners demanding peace, justice and freedom. Riot police pounced but the demonstrators joined hands and sang. The police were uncertain how to act as this behaviour took them by surprise so they ordered them to stop singing. The order was ignored and the police star ted beating people. The protesters asked ‘Why are you beating us?' and refused to disperse until they had been addressed by Sten. He was allowed to speak for 30 minutes before the group dispersed. It was then that the police arrested Sten and others.

ROHR is non-party political and is trying to encourage people to stand up for their human rights. We salute our brave friends who took part in this demonstration for freedom. We know that 23 of you were seriously injured including 2 ladies with broken arms. We hope your suffering will help in the creation of a new Zimbabwe .

At a busy Vigil we badly missed Chipo Chaya of the management team, who is always with us helping with merchandise and other Vigil matters. Following the death of her 25 year old brother she was in hospital with high blood pressure from stress. We joined to send her some support at her time of trouble.

We were glad to have with us Paul Jira who has been through a tough time. He arrived about eight months ago on false papers and was immediately sent to prison. About a week ago he was transferred to Dover Detention Centre. He was released today and came straight to the Vigil.

During the Vigil it was noticed that one person signed in for three. The question of possible fraudulent signing of the register was discussed at a management meeting held after the Vigil. We already have two people with general oversight of the register table but with the enormous number of people we are now getting we have to tighten procedures. It was agreed that from the end of February (to allow time for this to get around) the register would be closed at 5 pm . The rationale was that many people had been seen coming and signing at the very end of the Vigil. It has been suggested that some people attend the Vigil for the minimum time available in order to use it to advance their asylum claim. The Vigil management team discussed their policy on supporting asylum seekers and reaffirmed our existing procedure. People get letters about their support for the Vigil after completing 6 signed attendances with some leeway for those living far away, eg Scotland .

The Vigil management team is made up of people who are long-term and active supporters of the Vigil. People are invited to join when tasks need to be done. The team affirmed that the Vigil is a coalition of those who support our mission statement “ The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand , London , takes place every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe . The Vigil which  star ted in October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair elections are held in Zimbabwe .” We agreed that the Vigil is non-party political.

FOR THE RECORD: 172 signed the register.

FOR YOUR DIARY: Monday 28 th January at 7.30 pm. Central London Zimbabwe Forum. Elliot Pfebve , former MDC parliamentary candidate for Bindura, will speak about how elections are rigged in Zimbabwe . Venue: d ownstairs function room of the Bell and Compass, 9-11 Villiers Street , London , WC2N 6NA , next to Charing Cross Station at the corner of Villiers Street and John Adam Street .

 

25 th January 2008

News Release from the Zimbabwe Vigil

The Zimbabwe Vigil says that Stendrick Zvorwadza of its partner organisation, Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR Zimbabwe), has been detained by police in Harare . The Vigil said it had received a text message from Stendrick at about 5 pm today UK time (Friday, 25/1). It read “arrested and under interrogation, have been detained 4 hours so far”. The Vigil tried to phone him but the phone was not answered. Eventually at 11 pm UK time Sten picked up his phone. He reported he was still in police custody in a cell with 200 others. Other ROHR activists had been beaten up following a protest today but were now out on bail. Sten was hopeful that with the help of lawyers he would be out on bail on Saturday when we hope to speak to him again The Vigil says conversation with him was difficult because he was exhausted by his ordeal.

 

19 th January 2008

A massive and very busy Vigil. We estimate that at least 500 were there, filling the entire piazza outside Ziimbabwe House. Among them were MDC members who had marched from Trafalgar Square behind a huge banner “Zimbabweans want free and fair elections 2008”. The banner was donated to us and it will be a centrepiece of our Vigils in the weeks leading up to the elections. There was a huge queue to sign the register and it will be some days before it is fully processed. Gugu Ndlovu-Tutani, one of our register monitors, had to remonstrate with one lady who wanted to sign in for others. As Gugu explained, we are in the UK now and this sort of fixing is not acceptable.

The big turn-out was a wonderful publicity opportunity but unfortunately there were no press with us because of a lack of consultation between our visitors and the Vigil. What a waste! We could have promoted this to our extensive media list. It was by far the biggest demonstration that we know of held outside the Zimbabwe Embassy and made an important statement at this crucial time in Zimbabwe . Despite mischievous reports on some Zimbabwean websites it was a very harmonious Vigil, everyone giving a fair hearing to others. For us all it was a wonderful opportunity to meet and embrace other Zimbabweans, to sing and dance together in the traditional Zimbabwean way….. with a minimum of speechifying.

Story of the day: one lady asked the Vigil to write a letter to help her renew her Zimbabwean passport. We are touched that she had such faith in us but explained it was likely to be a disadvantage on this matter!

Highlight of the day: at the end of the Vigil the entire piazza was taken over by people holding hands to sing the national anthem in love of our country and our people.

Among us was a Zimbabwean who had spent 7 months in Yarlswood Detention Centre and had been released on bail reporting to the police twice a week. The Vigil supports any campaign to allow asylum seekers to work and contribute to the British economy and we are glad that this question is rising up the political agenda in this country.

Great to have Dr Brighton Chireka with us today. Brighton has been a committed activist and has launched a medical scheme to help the sick in Zimbabwe . He promises to join us again on a regular basis and we welcome him back. We also noticed among our supporters Peter Tatchell. We are always glad when this committed activist joins us.

Grateful thanks to the courteous policemen who helped tactfully to manage the throng.

After the Vigil we were briefed from Zimbabwe by Sten of our partner organization Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe . He said there was a blackout in the whole of Harare (we know see that it was the whole country according to SW RADio Africa) and the currency situation is worsening, with people sleeping by bank machines. Roads have huge potholes and people are lucky to get two meals a day. He himself had gone to bed hungry because he couldn't build a fire in the pouring rain to cook his sadza.

We were glad to see a profile of Vigil Co-ordinator Dumi Tutani in the important London Observer newspaper. In a review of protests, the newspaper describes us as the largest regular demonstration in London ( http://observer.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,2243558,00.html ). We reprint the interview here:

Dumi Tutani, 38 – The singer

In 2001 Tutani co-founded the Zimbabwe Vigil which meets weekly outside Zimbabwe House at 429 Strand , and has become the largest regular demonstration in London .

He's an easy man to find. Head to the Strand on a Saturday afternoon ( 2-6pm ), come rain or shine, and look for the man leading a crowd in song.

The Zimbabwe vigils star ted six years ago with five people, and now attract around 100 a week.

'We thought if we tell the people in the street that their tax money is going to prop up dictators, they will demand change,' says the soft-spoken musician. Singing, drumming and stomping toyi-toyi dancing were a natural accompaniment. 'Back home wherever a few people gather, be it a funeral, a wedding or just working in the fields, then we sing.'

Tutani fled the persecution suffered by members of Zimbabwe 's leading opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, and arrived in London in 2001. He lives in West Norwood , south London , with his wife and one-year-old son, Zizi, and got his immigration papers last month.

It's impossible to protest in Zimbabwe . The Public Order and Security Act means a handful of civilians standing together is a public order offence. Demonstrators are regularly beaten by baton-wielding policemen, and sometimes even shot.

'The Zimbabwe Embassy is the closest we can get to Robert Mugabe,' says Tutani. 'The situation is getting consistently worse. People don't have access to medicine, clean water, basic food or education: people are dying every day. We have to raise awareness until there are free elections.'

The vigil is portable, too, flying to Lisbon for the EU-Africa heads of state summit last month, where, amid a throng of protesters, the all-singing, all-dancing Zimbabweans gained widespread attention. Mugabe was furious to be upstaged, and his mouthpiece, the Herald newspaper, bitterly denounced the protesters as puppets of the UK government.

Elections are scheduled for March but they are unlikely to be free or fair or monitored by the international community.

'They're a sham. People in the diaspora are not allowed to vote, opposition parties are not allowed to campaign, there are no international observers on the ground,' says Tutani. 'We're not going anywhere.
The Central London Zimbabwe Forum meets as usual at 7.30 pm on Monday, 21 st January. This week's venue is t he Strand Continental Hotel, 143 The Strand, WC2R 15A. Directions: The Strand is the same road as the Vigil. From the Vigil its about a 10 minute walk, in the direction away from Trafalgar Square . The Strand Continental is situated between Somerset House and the turn off onto Waterloo Bridge . The entrance is a doorway onto the street, with a big sign high above indicating it is the Hotel Strand Continental and a sign for its famous Indian restaurant at street level. It's next to a newsagent.

 

17 th January 2008

Vigil faces bully-boy tactics

The Vigil has contacted Charing Cross Police about threats to disrupt the Vigil on Saturday. The following is our confirmatory email to them. “ To confirm our conversation today about the demonstrations on Saturday: We suspect the group behind the rival demonstration is responsible for a campaign to misinform our supporters that the Vigil has been cancelled and as you know the Vigil is going ahead as usual this Saturday. This group has refused to co-operate with the Vigil and has drawn up a programme which they seek to impose on us.  It is like allowing the Socialist Workers' Party to stage a demonstration at a Labour Party gathering.  We will do our best to ensure that the day passes peacefully but fear that they are trying to disrupt us.  They talk of bringing a thousand people but we suspect that - like the supposed presence of the Archbishop of York - this is just fantasy (we have it on good authority that the Archbishop will not be in London this Saturday). Anyway, we will be grateful for a police presence. As you know we have asked for this very seldom in going on six years. Thank you for your help and support during this long campaign.”

 

12 th January 2008

To our surprise, several supporters were hugged by passers-by. It's a great way to keep warm, although it wasn't a particularly cold day for this time of year. It turns out that the “free huggers” were practicing for National Hugging Day on 21 st January: yet another whacky phenomenon in the bizarre kaleidoscope of British life.

Who, for instance, would have expected – while we were singing our demands for freedom – that a red double-decker bus would drive past with on its side the slogan “Don't forget to register to vote”! If only we could . . . .

A Zimbabwean group say they are to hold a demonstration outside the Embassy next Saturday afternoon in support of the diaspora vote. It would have been good to consult us as we have been here every Saturday going on 6 years. Anyway we are quite happy to give them a free hug – especially if they are not behind the emails and telephone calls received by our supporters saying that next week's Vigil has been called off. It would appear that the Vigil is coming under increased attack since the success of our lobbying in Lisbon .

We can assure our supporters that the Vigil, as always, will be out there demanding free and fair elections. This is in line with the request by the MDC Tsvangirai Secretary for Information, Nelson Chamisa, who said that this should be the main drive for the diaspora. As for the diaspora vote, the Vigil sees little point in talking to the Zimbabwe Embassy .We will be putting our concerns about this to South Africa House, which is a more vulnerable pulse to press.

Another good attendance with marvelous singing and drumming and some star musicians among them. As always, we were humbled by people traveling long distances to be with us. Take Patrick Dzimba, for example. He lives in Glasgow in Scotland and caught a coach at 11 pm on Friday so he could be with us. When we said goodbye to him he headed off to Victoria Coach Station to catch a bus for 11.30 for his 8 hour journey home. Coaches are the cheapest form of transport. It was great to have you with us, Patrick. We are putting him in touch with one of our long-term supporters, Ancilla Chifamba, who has recently moved to Glasgow and wants to star t a Vigil there.

Finally, our commiserations to Chipo Chaya of the Vigil co-ordinating team whose only brother has died suddenly in England . He came from Zimbabwe about a month ago on a visit. We grieve with you, Chipo.

FOR THE RECORD: 197 signed the register. Supporters from Ashford, Basildon , Bedford , Birmingham , Brighton , Byfleet., Cambridge, Cambridge, Compton Lancing, Coventry, Crawley, Derby, Glasgow, Guildford, Huddersfied, Ilford, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Oxford, Portsmouth, Reading, Romford, Sheffield, Southampton, Southend, St Albans, Stevenage, Swindon, Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, Walsall, Westcliff-on-Sea, Woking, Wolverhampton and many from London and environs.

FOR YOUR DIARY: Monday 14 th January at 7.30 pm. Central London Zimbabwe Forum. This week forum discusses how best the diaspora can support the upcoming elections. Venue: d ownstairs function room of the Bell and Compass, 9-11 Villiers Street , London , WC2N 6NA , next to Charing Cross Station at the corner of Villiers Street and John Adam Street .

 

5 th January 2008

The events in Kenya cast a shadow over the Vigil. There are so many resonances . . . . . a stolen election, power-obsessed President , corruption . . . . It was alarming to see how patience could snap leading to a bloodbath. We pray Kenya will be a warning in time for Zimbabwe .

Over 200 people attended our first Vigil of 2008. After piercing cold during the week, we feared the worst but escaped with comparatively mild weather and none of the threatened rain.

People discussed the story in the media this week about Britain importing fish from Zimbabwe . In case you have not heard, the London Daily Mail newspaper discovered that the Waitrose supermarket chain was importing fillets of tilapia fish from Kariba. The paper asked us what we thought about this and we said how distasteful it was to take food from hungry Zimbabwean mouths. The Mayor of Kariba, John Houghton, has now insisted that the business is above board, benefiting local people. The Vigil is glad to hear this. There are no British sanctions against Zimbabwe so it is quite legal for British companies to import Zimbabwean products. Our concern is that such trade should not be a cover for Zanu-PF corruption. Vigil supporters agreed that we should not target Waitrose on this matter unless evidence showed this.

Our English schoolgirl supporter, Francesca, who is tireless in campaigning for Zimbabwe , received a letter this week from the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, in which he says “Please be assured of my continuing prayers for the people of Zimbabwe and for all those who pray, march and protest to help resolve this desperate situation.” Dr Sentamu, from Kampala , recently cut up his dog collar in protest at Mugabe's human rights abuses. We are planning to ask the Archbishop to accept our petition to pass on to the UN Secretary-General. The petition reads “ 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 star vation. 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 . ”

Kenya , Kariba, Kampala . . . . but closer to home for us was the birth of a baby boy, Mandla, to Julius Mutyambizi and Addley Nyamutaka last Saturday. We were all so surprised as we had been kept in the dark about the pregnancy, understandably given the tragic still-birth of their first son a year ago. We rejoice with them.

FOR THE RECORD: 202 signed the register. Supporters from Ashford, Basildon , Bedford , Belvedere, Birmingham , Bolton , Bradford , Braintree , Brighton , Byfleet, Cambridge . Chelmsford , Coventry , Dagenham, Guildford , Harlow , Haroldwood, Hatfield, Hertford, Huntingdon. Ilford, Kettering, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Loughborough, Luton, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Northampton, Nottingham, Oxford, Portsmouth, Reading, Redditch, Romford, Sittingbourne, Slough, Southampton, Southend, Stevenage, Tunbridge Wells, Walsall, Woking, Wolverhampton, Worthing and many from London and environs.

 

Feedback from the Lisbon Trip – 3 rd January 2008

The Vigil was fortunate to get enough funding to take a big group to Lisbon to protest against Mugabe at the AU / EU Summit . The group (Ephraim Tapa, Kudzai Rangarirai, Wiz Bishop, Adella Chiminya, Dumi Tutani, Willie Chitima, Guy Benton, Farayi Madzamba. Fungayi Mabhunu, Anna Meryt, Charles Gomedza, Judith Matsvairo, Priscilla Mugwagwa, Mike Bennett, Elliot Pfebve , Sanderson Makombe, Dennis Benton, Rose Benton, Themba Moyo, Victoria Chitsiga, Stendrick Zvorwadza, Dorcas Nkomo, Tichaona Gozvo, Racheal Lupafya) were a great team. We were accompanied by Lance Guma of SW Radio Africa. It was only at the last minute that we were joined Dumi whose passport arrived the day before we traveled, and Stendrick, who for visa reasons had to travel to Lisbon via Brussels . We asked the group for their personal feedback on the trip and received the following.

Ephraim Tapa: I remember very well when we discussed the Summit at a forum early last year if not late in 2006, then the focus being to campaign against Mugabe's invitation. Everyone felt very strongly against Mugabe's visit and I personally felt that no amount of remedial action would off-set the damage that would be occasioned by his visit. After the trip I have a different perspective: it was better that he came for he lost it big time and all tribute goes to the gallant activists who made the trip and those who supported us. That campaign made all the difference as it stole all the limelight and made Mugabe a sad figure of ridicule. Having witnessed such success with a very high sense of personal satisfaction, I am left wondering when next Mugabe might be venturing out again.

Willie Chitima: about 30 political activists including me took part in the trip to Lisbon to demonstrate at the Summit . On Friday 7 th December we went to Vasco da Gama Square , 50 metres from where the Summit was held, where we were allowed to sing and dance toy-toyi. We staged a drama showing Mugabe blocking his ears while we shouted about his abuse of human rights. On 8 th December we went back to demonstrate at the same place and sang for almost five hours. We saw our demonstrations in the Portuguese newspapers. I personally feel great for expressing my feelings against Mugabe. I hope there will be change soon.

Farayi Madzamba : The trip was fantastic and the impact it had was huge and will have a positive outcome. I think the world heard the powerful message that we gave and it made the Summit leaders open their eyes. This trip meant a lot to me and it brought me close to the other members of the Vigil.

Dumi Tutani : We stole the show in Lisbon . Other protesters shouted slogans but our dancing, drumming and singing gained much more attention. We were the best and most long-lasting of the protests with our toy-toyi getting lots of media attention. Our weekly Vigils are like a weekly rehearsal. I personally sang for 3 hours non-stop.

Fungayi Mabhunu : there was a very good feeling in the group with very good team work. it was an Interesting experience to play Mugabe, wearing the mask. I could feel the hatred for Mugabe even though he was being played by an actor. How has he managed to hang on so long when everyone hates him? He is probably scared to resign because of the crimes he has committed.

Judith Mutsvairo : I was glad to bring Zimbabwe 's plight to the world's attention in Lisbon . I am still getting phone calls from people asking about the trip. People are encouraged to join the struggle because of our trip.

Charles Gomedza: The group was full of energy and character standing firm in protest even in the face of the CIOs and the hired Mugabe supporters. We even became more zealous and vibrant when we learnt that the pro-Mugabe group was actually a group of disillusioned foreign nationals, not even Zimbabwean.

Rose Benton: I was stopped in the street by Portuguese people who had seen me on TV and wanted to congratulate the Vigil on bringing the world's attention to what was happening in Zimbabwe . Organising the trip was worth all the hard work. It was interesting to meet a former Zimbabwean, Peter Horsman, from Zimbabwe who now lives on the Algarve and came up to stage his own demonstration. It turns out he was a close neighbour from my childhood.

Adella Chiminya: What a time we had. The good spirit among the group was amazing. I salute you Rose. You are a soldier.

Racheal Lupafya : My family back home saw everything on television. Everyone I have spoken to talks very positively about the trip and say we did very well. I am glad we managed to shake the old tyrant.

Dennis Benton: I was amazed at how much money the Mugabe people had spent. There was a business exhibition nearby at which the Zimbabweans handed out lavish brochures which pretended that all was well in Zimbabwe , ignoring all the problems. I was interviewed at length by Czech television because I had mentioned a letter about Zimbabwe to the London Times by prominent writers led by former President Vaclav Havel.

Priscilla Mugwagwa: I was so happy at the success of the trip. Because we were there demonstrating and telling the world what was happening in Zimbabwe Mugabe was not able to say what he usually says. Thanks to the human rights groups (ADDHU and Crisis Action) in Lisbon who organised the protests which made our presence more effective.

Guy Benton: I only went because someone dropped out at the last minute – otherwise a place would be wasted. But I hope I made myself useful and I certainly enjoyed being with the group. I was impressed by the untiring dancing, singing and drumming.
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