Written by Administrator   
Friday, 23 January 2009 00:00
Although Luka Phiri was not deported on Thursday (15/01), he is still in detention in Dover Removal Centre. The Zimbabwe Association (ZA) reports that his MP's office has had no formal response to their representations. Luka's lawyer has put in an application for bail which will be heard on Wednesday, 28th January. We are hopeful he will be released.  The lawyer has also asked Becket House (Immigration)  to release Luka immediately, and said that they may put in an application against unlawful detention. Luka now has a working phone and a working pager (number 183) which can be accessed via the switchboard (01304 246400). For address of Dover Removal Centre, visiting hours and things you can do 

Address: Dover Removal Centre, The Citadel, Western Heights, Dover CT17 9DR
Tel: 01304 246400, Fax: 01304 246401. 

Visiting Luka  
Only 3 people maximum at any one time can visit. Bring ID plus 2 proofs of address. National Express runs a good coach service from Victoria Coach Station to Dover. Once in Dover it's a long walk up hill from the Western Docks and no buses go really near. Taxis cost £4.70

Dover Removal Centre Visiting Hours:
Mon – Fri: 8.40 – 11.25 and 1.40 – 4.25
Sat / Sun: 8.40 – 10.55 and 2 – 4.25
Evening visits: Mon & Wed, 6.30 – 7.55  

Things you can do:
Write to: Phil Woolas, MP, Minister of State (Borders & Immigration), Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF ­OR Phil Woolas MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. Then send a copy of the letter to your MP. To find your MP, click: www.writetothem.com/ or www.locata.co.uk/commons and type in your post code.  You can write to your MP c/o House of Commons. 

Letters are far more effective that emails but for speed you may want to email as well. For Phil Woolas use: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  and This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it + Fax: 020 7035 4745. Your MP's emails & fax numbers should be available via: www.parliament.uk   There are also contact details for the Home Office Press Office on this link:  http://press.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/.     


Zimbabwe Vigil 17th January 2009 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 18 January 2009 17:42

A massive Vigil – perhaps the biggest one we have ever had, apart from special occasions.  At the close, when we joined hands to sing Nkosi Sikelele Africa, people were standing three deep right around the Embassy piazza.  Perhaps it was developments at home that prompted the big turnout.  Or it might have been insecurity following the detention and threatened deportation of Luka Phiri of the Vigil Management Team. 


Certainly there was much discussion of the news that Tsvangirai had returned home for party consultations ahead of a SA-facilitated meeting with Mugabe and the reconvening of Parliament. We are outside the Embassy every Saturday whatever the season and, battling the cold in the fading light, we despaired as all the chefs in Southern Africa took a month off for Christmas to stuff themselves while people died of cholera or starved or were beaten to death.  Anyway we trust our chefs are sufficiently refreshed to put in a couple of days work before the country closes down for the celebrations marking Comrade Mugabe’s 85th birthday.


At the Vigil we have not had the luxury of a summer break. In fact we have had a busy week, what with the right to work campaign and our efforts to save Luka from deportation. Many people who came past the Vigil, seeing a picture of Luka on the table, expressed their outrage at the attempt to send him back to the deathly welcome of Malawi.  We were in close contact with Luka through the afternoon via text messages.  In response to Luka’s first message to the Vigil saying how much he was missing us, we did a big ‘pom pom’ for him, shouting ‘Free Luka, Free Luka’, and sent him the message that we were all thinking about him and supporting him.  Luka’s final message was: ‘This is the best time of my life to know there are people who really care. I am happy and blessed to be part of the Vigil. Nothing bad will happen to me as long as the Vigil is around.’ 


Many will already know that, through the great efforts of the Zimbabwean community in the UK, Luka’s deportation was halted at the last minute. He is still in detention though and we are working to get him released. Many thanks to Yeukai Taruvinga for her untiring efforts to help Luka and to Fungayi Mabhunu of the Vigil Management Team who visited Luka daily while he was held in Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre. He has now been moved to Dover.  We will keep you posted on what happens to Luka via ‘Update on Luka’ at the top of the home page of our website.


Vigil Management Team member Sue reported on the demonstration on Tuesday organised by Citizens for Sanctuary in support of the campaign to allow Zimbabwean asylum seekers to work. She said that after making representations at 10 Downing Street, the Zimbabwean group of some 300 or so toyi toyied to the nearby Home Office where they shouted ‘Free Luka’.


It was good to hear from Cathy Buckle this week. Her new book ‘Innocent Victims’ about Meryl Harrison’s courageous rescue of thousands of farm animals from Zimbabwean farms whose owners had been forced to flee will be available in March – www.merlinunwin.co.uk.   Cathy’s message to the Vigil: ‘Thank you for everything you continue to do for Zimbabwe – so many years’.


Some more points: We were glad to have with us Sarah who had just come back from Bulawayo and gave us an update on the situation there. An opera singer stopped to sign our petitions on her way to perform at Covent Garden. Eunita Masola handed £40 to the Vigil. She said it had been given to her by colleagues for causes in Zimbabwe when she went to work in her Vigil t-shirt.


In last week’s diary we gave a brief account of the activities of our partner organisation Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) in the first half of last year. Herewith a report on the second half of ROHR’s year.


14th JulyROHR is launching an ongoing arts festival in an effort to counter political violence and explore democratic space. It is working with Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights and their first event will be held in Kadoma on Saturday 19th July.
31st July -
At a Vigil Management Team meeting the possibility of setting up a fund to support victims of the election violence in Zimbabwe was discussed.  It was pointed out that our partner ROHR had already contributed substantial money to support victims of violence, most notably helping to pay for Tonderai Ndira’s funeral and providing Tichanzii Gandanga with the means to leave Zimbabwe to get treatment in South Africa.  It was agreed that it would be duplication to set up a separate fund and that we should channel any money through ROHR.
25th SeptemberROHR has today taken the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to court over the central bank's failure to review bank withdrawal limits in line with the economic situation.
10th October – More than 200 ROHR activists took to the streets of Harare today at 10.00 hours in a protest march. The demonstration was staged under the Demand for Democracy and Justice Campaign whose primary aim is to see Zimbabwe hold fresh elections for a new government and a leader of the people’s choice within two years. The police reacted by raiding ROHR offices and briefly detained ROHR programmes officer Mrs Mapanzure.  
17th OctoberROHR’s protest in Mutare attracted more than 150 people. The demonstration was however broken up by Zanu-PF youths. Clifford Hlatshwayo, our co-ordinator responsible for the Demand for Democracy and Justice Campaign, was severely injured.
27th October - 23 men and women have been hospitalised and seven arrested after ROHR demonstrated in Harare today. Four people are missing after having been abducted by Zanu PF. More than 200 ROHR activists participated in the demonstration that brought business to a standstill. The protesters marched towards the Harare International Conference Centre, the venue for this week’s SADC meeting.
28th October - More than 100 people participated in a demonstration organised by ROHR in Masvingo. The protest is a continuation of the protests during the meeting of SADC heads of state.
1st NovemberROHR activist Osborne Kachuru was beaten to death at ZANU PF's offices in Fourth Street, Harare, after a peaceful demonstration during the SADC talks on Monday.  Moses  Mutasa and Memory Chashayele who were abducted on 27th October  have been found. They are shaken and in deep pain caused by the extremely brutal assault they endured at the hands on their Zanu-PF abductors.
4th November – ROHR mobilised more than 200 people to participate in the protest march held in Gweru today. They were holding placards and distributing flyers to the public.
21st November – The ‘Demand for Justice and Democracy’ demonstration in Bulawayo was subdued because of the heavy presence of police, army and CIOs but ROHR members managed to distribute flyers to people in the streets who approvingly shouted, ‘victory is for the people’. 

1st December – More than 350 Bindura ROHR members and residents took to the streets today in a protest organised as part of the ROHR campaign for democracy and justice. 
21st December – About 40 ROHR members in Bindura have fled their homes to mountains and surrounding areas following attacks and arrests by Zanu PF. Several ROHR members were beaten up and are being accused of having staged a demonstration against President Mugabe without police authority.


For latest Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/ 


FOR THE RECORD: over 250 signed the register.


ROHR Newcastle General Meeting. Saturday 24th January at 61 Bishops Benwell, Newcastle NE15 6RY from 1400 - 1730 hrs. Contact: Linda Chingwinyiso 07894142263, Joseph Madziva 07905850073 or Fadzai Mudekwa 07727221873.
Unite Zimnite. Saturday 24th January at 7 pm. King’s College London’s student-led charity Project Zimbabwe is holding a fundraiser for Zimbabwe. The event is an African themed open mic night with over 8 acts coming to perform.  Money raised will go towards their MedYouth Project, a life skills programme being taught to school children in Bulawayo next summer. Venue: Function Room, Walkabout, Temple. Cost: £10/£5NUS. For more information, check: http://www.kclprojectzimbabwe.blogspot.com/
‘The Agony of Zimbabwe, What Chance for Change?’ Monday 9th February, 6.45 – 8.45 pm.  Talk by Christina Lamb Foreign Affairs Correspondent for the Sunday Times. Hosted by
Friends of Le Monde diplomatique. Venue: the Gallery, 70/77 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ (near Farringdon Tube station).  For more information check: http://monde-diplo-friends.org.uk/calendar.htm.
Zimbabwe Association’s Women’s Weekly Drop-in Centre. Fridays 10.30 am – 4 pm. Venue: The Fire Station Community and ICT Centre, 84 Mayton Street, London N7 6QT, Tel: 020 7607 9764. Nearest underground: Finsbury Park. For more information contact the Zimbabwe Association 020 7549 0355 (open Tuesdays and Thursdays).
Zimbabwean human rights activist seized on eve of UK demonstration PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Monday, 12 January 2009 23:30

Press release from the Zimbabwe Vigil – Monday 12th January 200922.30 pm 


Zimbabwean human rights activist seized on eve of UK demonstration 


Luka Phiri prominent human rights activistA leading Zimbabwean political activist in the UK campaigning for human rights in Zimbabwe has been taken into detention and told he is to be deported on Thursday. Luka Phiri (40) was helping organise a demonstration in London for Tuesday 13th January calling for Zimbabwean failed asylum seekers to be allowed to work in the UK.  



Phiri is on the management team of the Zimbabwe Vigil, which has been demonstrating outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London every Saturday for the last six years.  He is also a leading member of the Zimbabwe Association, a charity looking after Zimbabwean asylum seekers in the UK


Phiri entered the UK in 2003 on a Malawian passport and it is apparently for this reason that the Home Office wishes to expel him. At present the government is not enforcing deportations to Zimbabwe because of the situation there but feels free to send people back to Malawi.  



Vigil Co-ordinator Rose Benton said “There is no doubt that Luka is a Zimbabwean but the Home Office wants to send him back to Malawi, a firm supporter of Mugabe. Malawi will send him on to Harare where he will face retribution from the Mugabe regime.”   



She said Luka was a high profile campaigner in the UK and would be well-known to the authorities in Harare.  “He has given many outspoken interviews to the media on behalf of the Vigil.” She added that he’d been detained in the UK in 2006 but had been released while his asylum case was considered.  New evidence had been submitted but it appears that this had not been taken into account. 


Mr Phiri’s MP, Mr Stephen Timms (Labour, East Ham), has been asked to intervene with the government. 


1.      The ‘right to work’ demonstration is organised by Citizens for Sanctuary. Protestors are meeting opposite 10 Downing Street at noon on Tuesday 13th January and a delegation will be taking in a petition to the Prime Minister at 12.45.  For more info contact Jonathan Cox, 07919 484 066.
2.      Luka is held at the Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, Colnbrook Bypass, Harmondsworth, West Drayton UB7 0FX. Phone: 020 8607 5200, Fax: 020 8759 7996. Visiting times: Daily, 1400 - 2100 (last admission 2030)
3.      He is booked to fly to Malawi on Thursday at 7 pm with Kenya Airlines KQ101 from Heathrow.
4.      For more information, contact: Rose Benton 07970 996 003, 07932 193 467.
Zimbabwe Vigil Diary 3rd January 2009 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 04 January 2009 15:17

Happy New Year. We are now well into our seventh year outside the Embassy – more determined that ever. It was cold – the bleak midwinter – but that was the least of our worries. At this time of year it is the separation from our families that is the most painful thing. 


We were joined by Sungirayi Shikara, who afterwards wrote to thank the Vigil for the comfort it had given him. He said he had been unable to return home for the funeral of one of his 9-year-old twin daughters. “I say to my daughter Mildred may your little soul rest in peace daddy will always love you sweetheart my angel”. 


Competition for the Vigil came from demonstrators campaigning for the suffering people of Gaza. We’re often asked where we stand on issues like this: Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan etc. The simple answer is that we have no position on anything but Zimbabwe. (We are sorry that both Israel and Arab countries seem to be supporting Mugabe.) London’s Gaza demonstrators were long gone before we had finished our Vigil in the dark with only our singing and dancing to keep us going – and the companionship of course. 


A man came by complaining about all the Mercedes parked outside the Zimbabwean Ambassador’s residence in North London.  He said why don’t we protest there? Good idea . . . perhaps we should liberate some of the cars too. 


Chipo Chaya of the Vigil management team continued to collect CVs for the Citizens for Sanctuary campaign for Zimbabweans to be allowed to work in the UK.  These will be presented to 10 Downing Street on Tuesday, 13th January. See “For Your Diary” for details of the event. 


Last week we gave a brief account of the Vigil’s activities in the first six months of last year. Herewith the last half of the year.  Next week we will give a summary of the growth of our partner organisation ROHR in 2008. The material is drawn from our Vigil diaries. 


5th July 2008
A big crowd attended the Vigil to launch our new petition calling on FIFA to move the World Cup from South Africa: “With the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe and the likelihood of unrest spreading to South Africa we call upon FIFA to move the 2010 World Cup from South Africa to a safer venue. By the time the World Cup takes place South Africa’s support of the Mugabe regime will have made the whole region unsafe because millions more refugees will flee Zimbabwe prompting further xenophobic violence in neighbouring countries.”  


11th July 2008
Vigil members took a leading role today in a service at Parliament’s own parish church, St Margaret’s, next to Westminster Abbey, addressed by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.  The occasion was a service of prayer for the people of Zimbabwe called ‘Restore Zimbabwe’.  Chipo Chaya and Luka Phiri of the Vigil management team read a lesson in Shona and Ndebele respectively. Chipo also conducted the Zimbabwean choir and Vigil Co-ordinator Dumi Tutani led dancing below the altar. Vigil members gave testimony as ‘Voices of Zimbabwe’. 


8th August 2008
There was big media attendance at the joint demonstration outside the Chinese Embassy in London to coincide with the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing.  Television teams from British and foreign news organisations spent four hours with us.  It was an uplifting experience working with other oppressed peoples in protest at China’s support of dictators. It is difficult to say how many people attended because the Burmese and Tibetans mobilised at different times but the Zimbabweans and Darfurians were there from beginning to end.  A highlight was a symbolic tableau depicting Mugabe, Bashir of Sudan and Than Shwe of Burma chained to a figure representing China against the backdrop of a black coffin representing the millions of victims of the three dictators.  



20th September 2008
Our doubts about the power-sharing agreement seem to have been borne out.  The word we get from relatives and friends is that ZANU-PF seem to have no understanding of what power-sharing means.  Vigil representatives went to a meeting in London on Tuesday (16/9) organised by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum. It was addressed by Jenni Williams of WOZA and Abel Chikomo, Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum. A few people expressed misgivings about the power-sharing arrangement but Jenni and Abel and most of the audience were reasonably optimistic. (We weren’t.)


11th October 2008
Friends from times past joined us in brilliant sunshine for the Vigil to launch our 7th year outside the Embassy. Unfortunately Glenys Kinnock MEP was unable to be with us to receive our petition to the EU so we sending it to Brussels by post:
Letter to the European Union
“The Zimbabwe Vigil wishes to submit a petition calling on European Union countries to suspend government-to-government aid to members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) because of their failure to help the suffering people of Zimbabwe. As you will see, the petition has been signed by thousands of people from all over the world who have recently passed by our Vigil and share our anxiety about the crisis in our homeland. The Vigil condemns SADC for recognising Mugabe as President when SADC’s own election observers criticised the polls this year as deeply flawed. Mugabe consequently feels free to disregard a power-sharing deal signed last month -- despite the deepening humanitarian crisis. The Vigil wants the money saved by our proposal – and it amounts to many hundreds of millions of pounds a year – to be used to finance refugee camps in South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique to which Zimbabweans can flee for their lives without fear of prompting more xenophobic violence.” 


1st November 2008
Vigil supporters were shocked by the murder of Osborne Kachuru of ROHR. He was beaten to death at ZANU PF's offices in Fourth Street, Harare, after a peaceful demonstration during the SADC talks on Monday. We are told that the Zanu PF political commissar Eliot Manyika was responsible and the Vigil swears to leave no stone unturned to make sure he eventually faces justice. 


(Press Report: “Elliot Manyika, the ZANU PF political commissar whose name is synonymous with violence, died on Saturday (6/12) following a road accident along the Zvishavane-Mbalabala road.”)  


26th November 2008
Open letter from the Zimbabwe Vigil to South Africa
and the Elders

The dishonesty, hypocrisy and ignorance emerging from South Africa in the past week stabs at the heart of all those working for democracy in Zimbabwe.


The group of three ‘Elders’ spent a couple of days in South Africa talking about Zimbabwe and say they have been shocked by what they have learnt. Where have they been for the past 10 years? Have they read nothing, heard nothing? 


Even though they were not allowed into Zimbabwe, they submitted a report to South Africa’s President Motlanthe. He says he was shocked by the report and talks about ‘quibbling over ministries’. Where has he been for the past 10 years? Has he read nothing, heard nothing? 


They say the situation is desperate – and so it is – but it is not helped by this dishonesty, hypocrisy and ignorance.They say the Zimbabwean party leaders must put aside their differences and join in a power-sharing government to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe – as if another short-sighted and deceitful agreement like the one signed in September will do anything to improve the situation.   For our part the Vigil wants to see:
1.      No recognition of Mugabe’s illegitimate regime
2.      Neighbouring countries to refuse visas to members of the regime
3.      A freeze on the assets of members of the regime
4.      UN sanctions on the regime

5.      The establishment of refugee camps in countries bordering Zimbabwe where desperate Zimbabweans can seek food, medical attention, shelter and education no longer available at home. 


6th December 2008

The leader of the UK Liberal Democrat Party, Nick Clegg MP, visited the Vigil and called for international action to oust Mugabe.  Addressing Vigil supporters, Mr Clegg condemned the brutality of the Mugabe regime. He said it was a stain on the conscience of the world. The UN, he said, must take any measures necessary to remove Mugabe. The Lib Dem leader paid tribute to the persistence of the Vigil and declared ‘you will prevail in the end’.


20th December 2008
There was massive media presence because of the juxtaposition of cholera and Christmas. We were particularly pleased to have the SABC with us because our main message is addressed to South Africa.  We are encouraged that the rest of the world seems to be coming around to our view – both our petitions are aimed at pressing South Africa to take action against Mugabe. Father Cholera had an exhausting time sweating behind his Mugabe mask. When he appeared in his Santa Claus outfit he was mobbed by television crews (Sky, CNN, Channel 4, Aljazeera and others). He cut down from the trees beautifully wrapped Christmas presents and handed them to Vigil supporters representing the people of Zimbabwe. They were labelled: cholera, anthrax, starvation, hunger, violence, murder, rape, torture, greed, injustice, destruction, death,  corruption, lies, inflation, AIDS, malaria, devastation, kleptocracy, terror. 


For latest Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/


FOR THE RECORD: 157 signed the register.


·        ROHR Birmingham Fashion Show / Fundraising. Saturday 10 January 2009 at Bishop Latimer Church Hall, Beeton Road, off Handsworth New Road, Birmingham B18 4QD.
Entry fee £3. There will be raffles including half year subscriptions paid up on your membership. Come and let's revive our country. Contact: Em Zibgowa 07846005120, Des Parayiwa 07815565335, Reb Mlambo 07817585742, Tsitsi Mavhura 07932477842. 
·        Citizens for Sanctuary Campaign for Zimbabweans to be allowed to work.  On Tuesday, 13th January 2009 they will be handing over Zimbabwean CVs to 10 Downing Street.  Participants are asked to assemble at 12 noon in Richmond Terrace opposite 10 Downing Street. Photocall at 12.30 and at 12:45 a delegation of six Zimbabweans will enter Downing Street and deliver a dossier of CVs collected from Zimbabweans in the UK
who have skills that are going to waste and want to work.  For more info contact Jonathan Cox, Lead Organiser, CIitizens for Sanctuary Campaign: 07919 484066.      
·        ROHR Launch Meeting in Northampton. Saturday 17 January 2009 at Alliston Gardens Community Centre, 2 Adelaide Street, Northampton NN2 6AR from 1330-1730hrs. Contact Anthony Chimimba 07799855806, Shenete Vushe 07818661362, Angeline Nehanda 07915085123.
·        Next Glasgow Vigil. Saturday, 17th January 2009, 2 – 6 pm. Venue: Argyle Street Precinct. For more information contact: Patrick Dzimba, 07990 724 137
, Tafadzwa Musemwa 07954 344 123 and Roggers Fatiya 07769 632 687
·        ROHR Newcastle General Meeting. Saturday 24 January 2009 at 61 Bishops Benwell NE15 6RY Newcastle
from 1400 - 1730 hrs. Contact: Linda Chingwinyiso 07894142263, Joseph Madziva 07905850073 or Fadzai Mudekwa 07727221873.
·        Unite Zimnite. Saturday, 24th January 2009 at 7 pm. King’s College London’s student-led charity Project Zimbabwe is holding a fundraiser for Zimbabwe. The event is an African themed open mic night with over 8 acts coming to perform.  Money raised will go towards their MedYouth Project, a life skills programme being taught to school children in Bulawayo next summer. Venue: Function Room, Walkabout, Temple. Cost: £10/£5NUS. For more information, check: http://www.kclprojectzimbabwe.blogspot.com/

Zimbabwe Association’s Women’s Weekly Drop-in Centre. Fridays 10.30 am – 4 pm. Venue: The Fire Station Community and ICT Centre, 84 Mayton Street, London N7 6QT, Tel: 020 7607 9764. Nearest underground: Finsbury Park. For more information contact the Zimbabwe Association 020 7549 0355 (open Tuesdays and Thursdays).  

Zimbabwe Vigil Diary 27th December 2008 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 28 December 2008 16:19

There was a surprisingly big turnout given the freezing east wind.  With the credit crunch there were fewer people around than normal, despite desperate post-Christmas sales. Sue of our management team, who helps woman the front table, was so cold she went off to buy a pair of long socks.  She was struggling to put them on when one of the Vigil people – who works as a carer – came over and gave her a hand amid much hilarity.


Worried about our loved ones at home, we spent an anxious Christmas trying to work out what games Mugabe was playing with his cholera denial and abductions. It was good to be back together again to share information – and celebrate the first birthday of Mandla, another Vigil baby, son of Julius Mutyambizi and Addley Nyamutaka.  We enjoyed his birthday cake.  Patson Muzuwa said the Vigil was becoming a dating bureau given the number of marriages and offspring of people who had met outside the Embassy.


We had another South African passer-by who – initially supportive – was taken aback by our petition calling for the 2010 World Cup to be moved from South Africa.  “I am not going to sign that” he said. We continue to be surprised that our South African friends think football is more important than Zimbabwean lives.


We were all depressed to hear that the UN had not collected enough money to feed Zimbabwe. The Vigil again urges the European Union to help. The money needed could come from government-to-government aid from the EU to SADC countries. Malawi receives some £70m a year of this type of aid from Britain alone. The Malawi government is a great fan of Mugabe. Surely the UK could divert the money from Malawi to our desperate families in Zimbabwe. The Malawians could ask Mugabe for help instead . . . .


Nicolas Negoce of Vox Africa, a new French-African TV station, was with us and interviewed Luka Phiri of the Vigil management team. Another member of the team, Fungayi Mabhunu, is to do a studio interview with them later this week.


We were encouraged by a young man who came to us for the first time and said how much he had enjoyed being with us and he would bring friends to future Vigils. Another visitor was Jonathan Cox of the Citizens for Sanctuary Campaign who asked Chipo Chaya of the Vigil Management Team to get supporters to fill in CV forms. The plan is to hand over the CVs to the government to show that Zimbabweans have skills and want to work and make a contribution in the UK.


It has been a busy year and here’s the first part of our annual report – the highlights of the first six months of the year – taken from the Vigil Diary.  Next week we will do the same for July – December.


* 19th JanuaryA massive and very busy Vigil.  We estimate that at least 500 were there, filling the entire piazza outside Zimbabwe House.  Among them were MDC members who had marched from Trafalgar Square behind a huge banner “Zimbabweans want free and fair elections 2008”.
* 16th February – The Vigil was joined by activists from WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise) marking  the annual Valentine’s Day protest.  
* 17th February – Vigil members attended a church service in Speldhurst, Kent, addressed by Sebastian Bakare, Bishop of Harare.
* 8th March
Singing and toy-toying behind placards reading ‘Dignity! Democracy Zimbabwe’, a stream of people joined the Vigil after a rally in Trafalgar Square. The rally was organised by ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa) on International Women’s Day in support of women in Zimbabwe. 
* 29th MarchAbout 500 people came to the Vigil for our mock election. We were outside the Embassy from 6 am to 6 pm, with some people joining us from a Prayer Vigil for Zimbabwe at Southwark Cathedral.  The focus of attention was Fungayi Mabhunu wearing a Mugabe mask and accompanied by Gugu Tutani-Ndlovu as Grace.  Fungayi really got into the swing of things, stuffing a giant ballot box with votes reading ‘Mugabe for Murder’, ‘Mugabe for Torture’, Mugabe for Starvation’ etc. 
* 29th March – launch of Glasgow Vigil.  They meet every other week. 
* 17th-19th AprilThree days of demonstrations outside the Embassy culminated in the relaunch of the Vigil’s petition calling for action against the Southern African Development Community for their failure to hold Mugabe to agreed election protocols.  Several well-known musicians joined the Vigil, among them Lucky Moyo, formerly of Black Unfolozi, and Willard Karanga, formerly with Thomas Mapfumo’s band.  Vigil supporters were also out in force on Friday for a demonstration organised by Action for Southern Africa, the successor to the Anti-Apartheid Movement, to mark Zimbabwe’s Independence Day. There were also representatives of Zimbabwean youth groups who earlier  that day had invaded a meeting in London addressed by  Vice President Ali Mohamed Shein of Tanzania, which is the current chair of the AU.  They challenged him about the organisation’s attitude to Zimbabwe. The day before, on Thursday, the MDC in the UK staged a protest against the rigged elections outside the Embassy and South Africa House.  Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, the Zimbabwe Embassy itself had been invaded by a group of Zimbabweans – all ladies except for one brave man.
* 3rd May – We got a lot of media coverage of our demonstration in protest at Mugabe’s post-election reign of terror.  Fugayi Mabhunu gave three television and radio interviews while Stendrick Zvorwadza of our partner organisation Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) was on the radio a couple of times.  ROHR activists were at the Vigil in force to express their abhorrence of the violence being inflicted on opposition supporters.  
* 24th May – The Vigil joined in a ‘stand up for Zimbabwe’ campaign organised by a coalition of African civil society organizations who are calling on people across the world to press the Southern African Development Community,  African Union and the United Nations to act decisively to end systematic political violence in Zimbabwe. More than 200 people joined us.  We also held a mass 'lie down' as a way of graphically illustrating how many more people might die if the crisis isn't resolved. So many people wanted to take part that we had 3 waves of people lying down. .
* 9th June – The former Archbishop of
Cape Town and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu has asked for forgiveness on behalf of South Africa for the recent xenophobic violence against foreigners.  He was speaking  at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square.  Turning to Zimbabwe, Archbishop Tutu said it used to be a showpiece in Africa: “It has now turned into the most horrendous nightmare”. He accepted a copy of a petition from the Vigil calling on President Mbeki to stop supporting Mugabe and allow a change of government in Zimbabwe so Zimbabwean exiles can return home.
* 12th June – the Vigil protested outside the South Africa High Commission on the day when the
Zimbabwe situation was to be discussed by the UN Security Council.  Unsurprisingly, South Africa insisted that only the humanitarian situation be discussed: the political situation was not important enough.  The same attitude was reflected by the Hugh Commission, which initially refused to accept our petition to President Mbeki.  It was pointed out to them what bad public relations this was. Then they changed their mind and allowed one person to take the petition in to reception. Accompanying it was the following letter to President Mbeki: “We have been horrified by the recent xenophobic attacks on Zimbabweans and other foreigners in South Africa and enclose a petition signed on Saturday 7th June by people passing by the Zimbabwe Vigil. The situation can only get worse if Zanu PF is allowed to cling to power.  More and more Zimbabweans will have no choice but to flee.” The demonstration made a strong impression on a Thursday lunch hour in Trafalgar Square. The demonstration reached its height when, singing and dancing, all fingers were pointed at the South African High Commission.
* 21st June
Supporters had asked us to dedicate this Saturday as a prayer vigil and no one could fail to be moved by the outpouring of sorrow.  Many thanks to Sally Sakala, a gospel musician and worshipper at God Solution Centre who led the impassioned prayers and hymn singing.  We were happy to be joined by the Reverend Richard Carter of St Martin-in-the-Fields. 
* 23rd JuneA demonstration for democracy, rights and freedom for Zimbabwe organised by the TUC and ACTSA was supported by the Vigil.
* 25th June – Several Vigil supporters were among about a dozen demonstrators who gathered at
Hyde Park as Nelson Mandela arrived for a dinner with leaders including Gordon Brown and former President Bill Clinton. They held up a banner saying "Mandela ignores Mugabe's terror. Shame", "Mandela speak out. Support a free Zimbabwe". They were pleased when Mr Mandela waved at them.
* 26th June
We had a wonderful encounter with Nelson Mandela today. Vigil management team member Fungayi Mabhunu joined human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell at Mr Mandela’s hotel in London. They were there to alert people who might have pitched up for the planned picket cancelled because of Mr Mandela’s welcome comments on the Zimbabwe situation. Fungayi, speaking in hastily-learned Xhosa, said how pleased he was that Mr Mandela had spoken out about Zimbabwe and asked him to continue speaking out. The Vigil had planned to picket the concert for Mr Mandela’s 90th birthday in Hyde Park on Friday but in view of his support any message that we will give will be one of gratitude that he has spoken out.
* 26th June – A
Service of Solidarity with Torture Survivors of Zimbabwe on UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture organised by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum was supported by the Vigil.
* 27th June -- On Election Run-off day some 150 people gathered outside the Zimbabwe Embassy to protest against the death of democracy in Zimbabwe.  The centre-piece of the demonstration was a black-draped coffin which was presented to the nearby South African High Commission, containing a second tranche of our petition calling on President Mbeki to stop supporting Mugabe.  The South Africans would not allow our nominated person to present the petition because he was wearing our Mugabe mask so it was presented instead by his dear wife Grace dressed from top-to-toe in Harrods.  The crowd outside the High Commission shouted “Mbeki must go, Mbeki out, out, out”. Vigil supporters had walked from the Zimbabwe Embassy to the South African High Commission behind the coffin.  They carried placards reading “Died for Democracy in Zimbabwe.” 


Next week: our report on the second half of 2008 and the growth of ROHR.


For latest Vigil pictures check our pictures page.


FOR THE RECORD: 145 signed the register.


Glasgow Vigil. Saturday, 3rd January 2008, 2 – 6 pm. Venue: Argyle Street Precinct. For more information contact: Patrick Dzimba, 07990 724 137, Tafadzwa Musemwa 07954 344 123 and Roggers Fatiya 07769 632 687.
* ROHR Bournemouth Members' Meeting. Saturday, 3rd January 2009 at East Cliff Reformed Church, Holdenhurst Road, Bournmouth BH8 8AW. The meeting is from 12.30 – 14.30 and is followed by a march and fundraising at the town square. Contact Tina - 07886707953, Abi - 07917458873 or Mr Mapfumo - 07932216070/07533831617.
* Citizens for Sanctuary Campaign for Zimbabweans to be allowed to workOn Tuesday, 13th January 2009 they will be handing over Zimbabwean CVs to 10 Downing Street.  To obtain a CV form contact Jonathan Cox, Lead Organiser and Director of CITIZENS for Sanctuary, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 07919 484066. Deadline for CVs is 5th January.
* Unite Zimnite. Saturday, 24th January 2009 at 7 pm. King’s College London’s student-led charity Project Zimbabwe is holding a fundraiser for Zimbabwe. The event is an African themed open mic night with over 8 acts coming to perform.  Money raised will go towards their MedYouth Project, a life skills programme being taught to school children in Bulawayo next summer. Venue: Function Room, Walkabout, Temple. Cost: £10/£5NUS. For more information, check: http://www.kclprojectzimbabwe.blogspot.com/
* Zimbabwe Association’s Women’s Weekly Drop-in Centre. Fridays 10.30 am – 4 pm. Venue: The Fire Station Community and ICT Centre, 84 Mayton Street, London N7 6QT, Tel: 020 7607 9764. Nearest underground: Finsbury Park. For more information contact the Zimbabwe Association 020 7549 0355 (open Tuesdays and Thursdays). 

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