I have long taken an interest in Zimbabwe for reasons that I hope will become apparent. I have tried to study the Zimbabwe situation and as is often the case I don’t profess to have profound knowledge. But I do look on with consternation at what is taking place and believe its President, Robert Mugabe, has to shoulder a lot of the blame. Like many, I was taken aback by the military coup (that wasn’t a coup) to oust the President. As I write, Mugabe is not prepared to leave willingly and he is likely to be impeached.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. The optimist would hope for a better future under better leaders but no-one knows for sure how the new leadership will turn out and it should be noted the likely leaders will be from the same party as Mugabe that arguably has been responsible for some of the disastrous policies that have caused the country suffering and quenched dissent. I suspect nothing is going to be straight forward and as much as I detested Mugabe I fear the political bad guys will use the opportunity to further an agenda, which is not for the common good and likely tribal and even racist. I also look with consternation at too often unreported disturbing happenings in neighboring countries, such as South Africa. We can but hope and pray and watch with interest and hopefully be able later to support a better future without Mugabe at the helm.
Before Zimbabwe came into being, I watched from afar as a youth developments in what was Southern Rhodesia, remembering well when the then Prime Minister Ian Smith declared UDI. After internal struggles the country was renamed Zimbabwe, with Mugabe becoming its leader, with the blessing of the British who earlier had overseen the country. According to Wikipedia: “Since the 11th century, present-day Zimbabwe has been the site of several organised states and kingdoms as well as a major route for migration and trade. The British South Africa Company of Cecil Rhodes first demarcated the present territory during the 1890s; it became the self-governing British colony of Southern Rhodesia in 1923. In 1965, the conservative white minority government unilaterally declared independence as Rhodesia. The state endured international isolation and a 15-year guerrilla war with black nationalist forces; this culminated in a peace agreement that established universal enfranchisement and de jure sovereignty in April 1980. Zimbabwe then joined the Commonwealth of Nations, which it withdrew from in December 2003.”
In June 2009, I produce a report titled “Missing Communities” (see here). It was the culmination of a year’s research into the various fringe groups, including ethnic, which I called “communities”, which made up my town’s (Southend) 170,000 population. One of those communities were first and second generation Zimbabwean immigrants. The total was around 2000 and had grown from next to nothing from twenty years ago. Some were economic migrants, including those who had been students or had a professional qualification but many were asylum seekers, fleeing from Mugabe led oppression. While some were able to gain UK residency, many were unable, and part of my later role was to provide support in this area and concerning other issues facing that community. I later was offered a year’s contract as a community worker and one of my remits was to work with the Zimbabwean community, including helping to set up an association for the benefit of that community. My findings are described in that report and a description of my later involvement in my book “Outside the Camp” (see here).
While I am less involved with Zimbabwean folk in my town these days, I still maintain contact with a few and look upon them as friends. I have seen many fine qualities, including serving the wider community, and also less fine traits, for they are like any group a mixture of the good and bad. I get the impression some, especially those who have settled, are less interested in things “back home” or their suffering brethren, and the religious and political types tend not to get on. I recall the first chair of the group we set up, mindful that even in a small community there were rival factions, remarked on the fact (using his terminology): there were political Zimbabweans (mostly anti Mugabe unsurprisingly), religious Zimbabweans (a lot more so than the host community and usually Christian) and drunk Zimbabweans (those who cared for neither and were themselves disaffected). While I can’t claim to have united these various sections, at least I like to think I did my bit to help, including supporting claims for asylum.
As I say, I look with concern on developments taking place. That Mugabe has so quickly been ousted has taken me and no doubt many Zimbabwe watchers by surprise. I pray for a just outcome realizing how much suffering there has been and knowing the country if led aright can do so much better, for there are many qualities, and one again become the breadbasket of Africa. I should also mention white Zimbabweans who have been targets in the past and the few remaining may be so still. I hope our own government will act wisely and be generous, putting behind past folly. And finally, I wish the Zimbabwean community that have settled in my own town well. Whether some will return with a change in regime remains to be seen (I suspect not many) and hope they will continue to prosper and thrive and contribute to the local community, and issues I identified 8 years ago will be fully resolved.