Exiled Zimbabweans call for Voting rights

On the eve of Zimbabwe’s 30th Independence Anniversary, members of the 1 Million Zimbabwean Voices Movement UK gathered outside Richmond House in London and presented a petition to the office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, calling on the British Government to assist Zimbabweans to secure their voting rights in their own country.

It had been planned that presentation of the petition would be presented simultaneously around the world to governments where Zimbabweans live. However, only the United Kingdom chapter of 1 Million Zimbabwean Voices was able to present its petition. This is not to be interpreted as a failure on the part of the other chapters of the Movement, but rather a reflection of the disparate logistical circumstances that Zimbabweans have found themselves in around the world. It has not been as expedited to register an organisation in the Movement’s name in other countries as it has been in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, we do not regard this as a setback but a chance to ensure that the petition remains in the public eye for an extended period.

Following the presentation of the petition, 1 Million Zimbabwean Voices’ Interim Chairperson, Ms Barbara Nyagomo, addressed members outside Richmond House. She thanked them for their attendance, and told them that the presentation of the petition was not the culmination of our collective efforts, but simply the first step of what may be a long road.

Ms Nyagomo’s remarks were followed by those of Mr Tawanda Jonga from the Zimbabwe Action Group, who appraised the gathering of the U.K-based pressure group.

The second guest speaker was Mark Taylor, the British immigration lawyer who has taken up Zimbabwean cases as his area of specialisation. He attributed the rather small turnout to the climate of fear in the Zimbabwean community in the UK, which he felt was understandable considering the British government’s treatment of Zimbabwean immigration issues. Many Zimbabweans were being denied asylum or other legal leave to live and work in the country, but were not being deported, which left them in a limbo for indefinite periods of time.

1 Million Zimbabwean Voices commends Mr Taylor for his role in securing the human rights of Zimbabweans in the UK.

Also to speak was the Information & Press Relations Officer, Masimba Musodza, who explained the objectives of 1 Million Zimbabwean Voices.

In the ensuing debate, one of the major issues raised was that of Zimbabweans who have arbitrarily been deprived of their Zimbabwean citizenship. Many of these are unable to obtain citizenship anywhere else, not even in the lands of their ancestry, such as the United Kingdom, Zambia, Malawi etc. One confessed to having paid a bribe of US$500 to a civil servant in Harare, prompting speculation that corrupt staff may be holding people ransom.

In an impromptu speech, Zimbabwean historian, Roben Mutwira of the Bradford Refugee Forum, called upon Zimbabweans to become more community-conscious. We should be the first line of defence in matters of immigration, accommodation etc, and we should support each other’s businesses. He called upon us to compile a list of lawyers that help Zimbabweans with immigration matters (as opposed to those who are more interested in the fees)

As Zimbabweans dispersed, there was an all-round feeling that we have more in common than we could have imagined. Small as the group was, it represented the broad spectrum of Zimbabwean society. There was also the feeling that this was a promising start to what shall be the biggest mass movement of Zimbabweans for Zimbabwe.
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