Press Releases
BBC man arrested in Zimbabwe PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 26 May 2012 10:16

Media Notice from the Zimbabwe Vigil – 26th May 2012


The BBC classical music presenter Petroc Trelawny is reported to have been arrested in Zimbabwe and is said to be in prison. He was apparently detained on Thursday night for working without a permit. Trelawny was taking part in the Bulawayo Music Festival which opened on 23rd May and is due to end tomorrow (see: He was said to have been transferred to prison in Harare where it is understood that he was visited by the British Ambassador Deborah Bronnert. The grim conditions in Zimbabwean prisons were recently described by the New Zealand photo journalist Robin Hammond, who spent 25 days in a Zimbabwean jail (see: – The Zimbabwe Mugabe didn’t want you to see).


For further information contact Rose Benton 07970 996 003, 07932 193 467.

Protest in London over visit by Swazi King PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 20 May 2012 11:50

Media Release from the Swaziland Vigil – 16th May 2012

Protestors demonstrated outside a leading London hotel against the visit of King Mswati III of Swaziland – Africa’s last absolute ruler – who is in the UK to attend a diamond jubilee banquet for the world’s monarchs hosted by the Queen at Windsor Castle on Friday 18th May.

The protest was organised by the Swaziland Vigil which stages regular demonstrations outside the Swaziland High Commission in London in protest at the king’s autocratic rule. They were supported by the Zimbabwe Vigil which protests against Mugabe and by Action for Southern Africa (the successor organisation to the Anti-Apartheid Movement) along with members of British trade unions.

Amid drumming, singing and chants of ‘Mswati must go’ the demonstrators outside the Savoy hotel in the Strand carried banners reading: King Mswati buys £30m plane while his people eat cow dung’, ‘Mswati and his 30 strong entourage stay in £400 a night Savoy Hotel while his people starve’, ‘End human rights abuses in Swaziland’, and ‘Democracy now for Swaziland’.

A spokesperson for the Swaziland Vigil Flora Dlamini said the Swazi people were demanding democracy and an end to the feudal regime under which no political parties were allowed and freedom of expression was curtailed.

 ‘We have one of the richest kings in the world and yet we live in poverty. People are starving but he is here with more than 30 people in one of the most expensive hotels in London.

King Mswati (44) who has married 13 women was said, by two young women who came out of the Savoy, to be flirting with them asking about the best night clubs and shopping in the area.

The Swaziland Vigil is also to demonstrate outside the Swaziland High Commission in London on Saturday when King Mswati hosts a dinner there.

A BBC photographer passed by and took photos. He has posted this on twitter: ‘What the King of Swaziland might see if he looks out of his window at the Savoy Hotel in London’ (#royal He has also posted a sound bite on the following link:

Thanks to Fungayi Mabhunu, Flora Dlamini, Margaret Dlamini, Mary Muteyerwa, Georgina Makaza, Bernard Hukwa, Ellen Gonyora, Kelvin Kamupira, Ndana Sanyanga, Edward Mutamiswa, Tim Rusike and Rose Benton who attended the protest.

Photos link: 

Let them eat cow dung PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 16 May 2012 19:27
Media Notice from the Swaziland Vigil – 14th May 2012

Swazis in London protest at visit by playboy king Mswati III

Exiled Swazis living in the UK are to protest outside the Savoy Hotel in London on Wednesday 16th May when their king Mswati III is due to arrive to attend a diamond jubilee banquet for the world’s monarchs hosted by the Queen at Windsor Castle on Friday 18th May.

The protest is organised by the Swaziland Vigil which stages regular demonstrations outside the Swaziland High Commission in London in protest at the king’s autocratic rule. He is Africa’s last absolute monarch and has, at the last count, 13 wives – although there are reports that some of them have fled. Forty-four year old Mswati III, educated at Sherborne public school in Dorset, is said by Forbes magazine to have a fortune of more than $100 million while his people live in poverty.

The co-ordinator of the Swazi Vigil Thobile Gwebu said people in Swaziland had been reduced to eating cow dung so that they could fill their bellies as required for the AIDs medicines provided by NGOs. She said the king had recently taken delivery of a DC-9 twin-engine aircraft claiming it was a gift from ‘anonymous sponsors’.

Ms Gwebu said she understood the king was travelling with the entourage of 30, staying at the Savoy where room prices start at £400 a night.

She said Swazis in the UK didn’t want to spoil the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations and had written to her explaining that, as Queen of the Commonwealth, perhaps she could have a word with Mswati so that they could return home to a country where human rights were respected. For text of the letter see:

The Swaziland Vigil is also planning to picket the Swaziland High Commission on Saturday 19th May when king Mswati is due to hold a dinner.

Savoy Protest
Date:                    Wednesday 16th May from 12 noon – 3 pm
Venue:                 Savoy Hotel, Strand, London

Swazi High Commission Protest
Date:                    Saturday 19th May from 6.30 pm
Swazi High Commission, 20 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6LB

Contact:               Fungayi Mabhunu 07746 552 597

Zimbabweans present petition to 10 Downing Street PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 20 April 2012 17:26

MEDIA NOTICE – 19th April 2012


Exiled Zimbabweans are marking the 32nd anniversary of Zimbabwe’s independence by presenting a petition to 10 Downing Street in an attempt to ensure that elections threatened this year are supervised by the UN.


A letter accompanying the petition thanks David Cameron for his recent promise to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to help Zimbabwe hold free and fair elections


The petition reads: ‘We call on the Security Council to ensure that the next elections in Zimbabwe are free and fair. We look to the United Nations to supervise the electoral process and the handover of power to a new government and believe peace-keeping troops will need to be in place before, during and after the polling.’


The petition has been signed in the past two years by more than 12,000 people from all over the world who have passed by the Zimbabwe Vigil, which has been held outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London every Saturday for the past 10 years in protest at human rights abuses.


The Vigil fears that President Mugabe will illegally call elections before reforms have been made and again bludgeon his way back to power.


Before the petition is handed over, the Vigil and supporters of Mr Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change will demonstrate outside the South African High Commission to urge President Zuma to force Mugabe to adopt the promised reforms.


Date:                    Saturday 21st  April  from 2 – 6 pm

Venues:              Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London WC2

                            South African High Commission, Trafalgar Square

                            10 Downing Street SW1

Timetable:           2 pm – meet outside the Zimbabwe Embassy

                            2.45 – move to the South African High Commission

                            3 pm – speeches and activities outside South Africa House

                            3.45 – move to 10 Downing Street

                            4.15 – Vigil petition handed in to 10 Downing Street

4.30 – return to the Vigil at the Zimbabwe Embassy  

Contacts:            Rose Benton 07970 996 003 / 07932 193 467, Fungayi Mabhunu 07746 552 597

Silly Ninny – Zimbabwe Vigil: 18th April 2012 PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 18 April 2012 20:49

Like Mugabe, the respected columnist and broadcaster Matthew Parris is said to be a charming man. But he has raised some hackles with superficial articles on his recent holiday in Zimbabwe. His first  piece was in the Times on 29th March:

Time moves on. Haunts of childhood stay still

Zimbabwe Notebook: Home hasn’t changed at all


Amazing how fast everything comes back after 44 years. It was Salisbury airport then and it’s Harare airport now, but, hire car collected, I at once remembered the way back into town and never needed a map even though the street names – Stanley Avenue, Jameson Avenue – had mostly changed. Returning to what was then Rhodesia and is now Zimbabwe has given me a new sympathy with John Major’s much-mocked exclamation in a party political video in which he returned to his boyhood home in Brixton. “It’s still there!”


“Of course it is, you ninny,” we all cried. But time and again in the past week, and to the exasperation of my companion, I’ve been whooping spontaneously at the amazed discovery that an entire country does not vaporise simply as a result of one’s ceasing to favour it with one’s presence. “My old school — it’s still there!” “Our old house, it’s still there!” “The Chimanimani mountains – still there!”


Washing lane

The potholes, though, are new. Actually Zimbabwe has a better road network now than when the white government fell at the end of the 1970s, but there does seem to be a problem with maintenance. Potholes are a major topic of conversation among Zimbabweans black and white, each contributor outbidding the last, like anglers, in their claims as to the size and frequency of the shockers they’ve most recently encountered.


Nobody, however, has yet outbid one motorist I met who had heard from a friend just over the border in Mozambique: “. . . and on this lonely road he rounds this bend, and there in the middle of the road was this almighty pothole so he jams on the brakes and to his astonishment a woman’s head appears above the surface of the road, then her body, then a towel which she wraps herself in and scuttles towards the ditch clutching all her clothes and a bar of soap.

She had been bathing in the pothole.”


A working country

So potholes, yes; and power cuts, yes; and the grass verges aren’t as well mown as they were in the days of white Rhodesia. But if you’re expecting ambushes, armed robberies and empty shelves in the supermarkets, you’ve been misinformed. Huge political problems abound, but Zimbabwe is not devastated and its people are not destitute. Now that they’ve abandoned their own currency in favour of the US dollar and the South African rand, the country more or less works.


As a tourist — and I do emphasise “tourist”, for who knows what a tourist never sees? — you will encounter a gentle, friendly and safe place; a muzzled press but fairly open conversation; a viable mobile phone network, fuel in all the petrol stations, clean rooms in a range of lovely hotels, nice people, good English, spectacular landscapes — and almost no other tourists at all.


We appeared to have the Chimanimani mountains almost to ourselves. No, not “almost”: entirely. The visitors’ book at the national park entrance recorded the last visit as being three days before. I had always wanted to climb these mountains as a boy, and now here we were, on a cool day of sunshine and cloud, clambering up steep footpaths across tumbling streams towards a magnificent wall of pale quartzite peaks, their summits some 8,000ft above sea level.

We picnicked on a wide, flat valley beneath them — thick with yellow elephant grass, small antelope scampering away. We clambered down before a glorious sunset, bade the warden goodbye and good luck in getting another visitor or two, perhaps, in a few days; and made our weary but exultant way back to our bungalow — the Bradt guide quoting a description of the proprietor as “probably the nicest person in the world”. She was.


The darker side

Tourists, as I said, don’t see everything; and our happy picture was sometimes challenged by darker stories. Once he trusted us, one young African in Matabeleland told us that his parents, who had become too “political”, had been wired into their hut while the children were away and incinerated when the hut was set aflame. Terrified and still a youth, he had walked south, alone, and crossed the Limpopo River illegally to South Africa to make his way in the world.

Now he had returned, because “the storm has abated ... for the immediate”. He had an outstanding command of English but as if learnt from a 19th-century Methodist school textbook. “Let me now put the flesh of detail”, he said gravely, “on the skeletal outline with which I have already furnished you.”

Then he explained how the park that we were in had been protected as national patrimony “for the benefit of babies and sucklings”. I thought of this clever, orphaned boy picking his way alone in the dark across the Limpopo, possessing literally nothing, towards a future completely unknown.


The article drew a sharp response from Tom Benyon of Zane:

Zim ruled by fear Published at 12:01AM, April 3 2012

The shops may be full of goods but people right across the community in Zimbabwe cannot afford to buy anything on offer


Sir, Matthew Parris (Mar 29) claims that “Zimbabwe is not devastated and the people are not destitute”. Although Zimbabwe may look peaceful, it is still a vicious police state, its people ruled by fear. The government is proceeding with its “indigenisation policy” which means the confiscation of half of all the businesses in the country. Although the old, debauched currency has given way to the SA rand and the US dollar, and the shops are full of goods, the people served by Zane (Zimbabwe A National Emergency) right across the community have long since been rendered destitute and cannot afford to buy anything on offer.

Tom Benyon, Director, Zane, Bladon, Oxon


The Vigil thought to leave the matter at that. But supporters in Australia pointed out to us an article in the Spectator ( – The troubling truth about Zimbabwe, Matthew Parris 7 April 2012). They asked us for our comments. Here they are:


The troubling truth about Matthew Parris is not that he is challenging received opinions but that he doesn’t know what he is talking about. The Vigil has no qualms with his historical commonplaces about the Smith regime etc. But he shows only a superficial understanding of what is going on today.  There is no sign that he has read any of the dozens of books published on Zimbabwe in recent years or any of the stories about Zimbabwe easily available on the internet. Has he ever, for instance, looked at the Zimbabwe Situation website, a daily compendium of news about Zimbabwe, often containing as many as 20 or 30 stories? He could usefully have looked at the Sokwanele summary of abuses, which he could have found in Zimbabwe Situation ( Inclusive Government Watch – Issue 37).


We at the Vigil – 95% black – are in constant contact through our families with what is going on at home. Our relatives there do not share his rosy picture, redolent of patronizing white colonialists: ‘Don’t shout at Mugabe. We can’t expect to understand these charming black people or their culture of killing each other.’


Mr Parris may, for all we know, be visiting rural Iran and have a similar piece in the Times this Saturday when we will be protesting as usual outside The Zimbabwe Embassy in London. We will also be demonstrating outside the South African High Commission at their failure to get Mugabe to honour the global political agreement he signed. And we will also be visiting Downing Street to present a petition calling for UN supervision of the coming elections.


Sorry for the shouting Mr Parris. But you are paying for your holiday with our blood.

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