Opinion

Dirty Game

Mugabe and his boys: Why Zimbabwean refugees are in UK

Robert Gabriel Mugabe, president of the Republic of Zimbabwe, sits in the Plenary Hall of the United Nations (UN) building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the 12th African Union (AU) Summit.

 

The Zimbabwean crisis might have not drawn as much attention from the mainstream media as other similar cases of clashes between civilians and government, but in London there are clear signs that the problem continues. The first time I saw demonstrators outside the Zimbabwe House in Agar Street, was a few weeks ago, only to realise that it has become a common phenomenon, as every weekend protesters are demonstrating against Mugabe’s government. More than that, Mugabe’s dictatorship  as recently denounced by Kofi Anan  has forced generations of Zimbabweans to leave their country for better conditions, where violence and human rights violations hopefully are not part of life’s daily routine.

Probably this explains why Zimbabwe finds itself near the top of a list of refugeeproducing countries. The example of Zimbabwe gives us ample food for thought with regards to the meaning of Refugee Week in June. Asylum Seekers are testament to the existence of injustice and impunity around the globe. As long as these problems persist, then more uprooted generations will follow and there will always be something to do about it.

Mr Fatso, a Zimbabwean refugee, explains why the demonstrations still continue.

Every weekend demonstrators gather outside the Zimbabwean Embassy in London, rain or shine. They are there to express their discontent with the ruthless and malicious government that has ravaged the former basket of Africa, turning it into a begging orphan.

When the freedom deprived Zimbabweans shout ‘MUGABE MUST GO, MUGABE MUST GO, they mean it. Mugabe must vacate his position one way or another.

There are elements even within the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF) which want to see change at the helm. However, they just follow the rules religiously, considering the experience of Edgar Tekere, Ndabaning Sithole, Duri, Mike Mataure, former Shabani Mine owner- Mutumwa Mawere, James Makamba, familiar names to the Zimbabwean community. There is a circle of greed for power and wealth, people who are taking advantage of the current political situation to enrich themselves at the expense of the masses. They will have to go or face the wrath of law when it comes in the post-mugabe era.

Kofi Anan recently denounced Mugabe as a Dictator, as if he wasn’t aware of that all along. He could and should have acted in a different way when he was still at the helm of the UN. Mugabe should have gone a long time ago. Manicaland Zanu-PF Mike Mataure said, ‘The legs are tired, new pairs of horses are needed to pull the cart’. Since then he has never served in the government again. As things were better at the time, people didn’t take him seriously. Mugabe went from being an aspiring African Father to being called the ZANU PF mobster. He turned governmentcontrolled, yet traditionally non-political institutions into political instruments: the police, army, even some religious groups. The Border Gezi militia, which terrorized, raped, killed and burnt homes, schools and properties of anyone opposing the regime, was formed to strengthen the grip of power. Unfortunately, it was mostly uneducated and unemployed youths who were sent to beat up the opposition across the country, turning schools into torture bases. They were paid with intoxicating substances, so that most didn’t even realise why and what they were doing. Time after time, Mugabe used unconventional tricks to stay in power, aided by those around him. He won back the support of war veterans by printing non-gold backed notes and dishing them randomly, with almost his then full cabinet benefiting – some getting 300% disability benefit. The printing of money brought a steep rise in short-term demand for goods against supply, which triggered the fall of the Zimbabwean Dollar and sparked hyperinflation. As if this was not enough, they sanctioned land grabbing, which kept away even more investors. Zanu PF wants more of these policies, because it will give them more freedom to do deals under the table, such as the forceful acquisition of personal wealth from state coffers. And they will blame everything on the West.

Kofi Anan should be calling Mugabe to the Hague for the atrocities committed against his own people since he came to power. However, this time it will not be in Matebeleland only, but country-wide, with the potential to engulf the whole of Southern Africa. Zimbabwe played a big role in both conflicts before, with the Zimbabwean ministers plundering DRC Diamond in 1998. Mugabe should be stopped to avert the eminent genocide. Many people have died and disappeared under Mugabe’s government. The world is aware of the torture of opposition activists, destruction of the health service which facilitated conditions for spreading diseases, deliberately ignoring the high infant mortality rate. It’s difficult to provide actual figures due to undocumented migration trends but the numbers could be in the millions, more than even the displacement seen in Darfur or Rwanda. Mugabe must go, Mugabe must go. His henchmen should be answerable one way or another.

Focus on migration at the Tate

By Shirvan Arslan

'Between the Two My Heart is Balanced' by Lubaina Himid. Photograph © Lubaina Himid

The Migrations: Journey into British Arts exhibition at Tate Britain explores the rich contribution of immigrants to British Arts. As a German with Kurdish-Armenian roots, the museum’s promise that it would “reveal how British Art has been fundamentally shaped by migration” aroused high expectations within me. Sadly it failed to deliver. The exhibition begins with a portrait of Mary Rogers, Lady Harington, by the Dutch artist Marcus Gheeraerts in 1592. The visitor is then taken on a journey from the 16th century to the 20th century through the work of mainly western European artists. The highlights include Flemish Baroque artist Antony Van Dyck, painter to King Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria; 18th century Swiss artist Angelica Kaufmann; and 20th century German artists Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach.

Marcus Gheeraert’ss Portrait of Mary Rogers, Lady Harington.

One of the stand out inclusions is a painting Between the Two My Heart is Balanced, 1991, from African artist Lubaina Himid, who was one of the pioneers of the Black Art movement in the 1980s which put black identity on the artistic agenda.

The exhibition ends with a selection of short films such as Measures of Distance (1988) by the Lebanon director Mona Hatoum, which is a poetic reverie on the pain of separation. There is also a film shot in Mauritania by Algerian born artist Zineb Sedira, that shows the African coastline dotted with ruined buildings and the remains of ships. It represents the hopes of immigrants leaving Africa for a better life in Europe.

A visit to the exhibition is worthwhile, but the link between migrant artists and their influence on British art is not as strong as I had hoped.  The omission of important artists such as British-Nigerian Yinka Shonibare, who is best known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism and the Indian-born British sculptor Anish Kapoor, who designed the Orbit in the Olympic Park, was disappointing.

Migration: Journeys into British Art is at the Tate Britain until 12 August

My Anti-Crime Campaign

By: Khadija Abdelhamid

“RIP bro, just an indicator of the wasted values of the world we live in today, where a pair of trainers are held by some sick individuals to be more valuable than a man’s life” – Omar Farooq Begg, posted on Facebook after the tragic death of 18-year-old Seydou Diarrassouba, victim of an Oxford Street stabbing in late 2011.

Khadija Abdelhamid


London has become a landmark when it comes to crime. According to the Metropolitan Police, 7,006 firearm offences were recorded in England and Wales in 2010/11. In 2010/11, the police recorded 32,714 of these offences (including homicides) involving a knife or sharp instrument.

These statistics show the reality of gun and knife crime in the UK. Of course, everyone has their own opinion about why gun and knife crime is on the rise. From broken homes to absentee father figures, financial issues to peer pressure, childhood abuse and more.

However as a young anti-crime campaigner myself, with no experience of losing a loved one, I believe I could be a victim of discrimination, simply because of the crimes that the teens of my generation commit. This is a stereotype I’m hoping to change. The fact that I’ve never been associated with a gang or lost a loved one to gun and knife crime, should start to portray a positive image about youths.

I grew up aspiring to be like people who have changed the world, people who had a passion to spread peace and equality. The more I looked up to others that made a small or big change in the world, the more I aspired to follow in their footsteps, but I must also remember that I must make a different change, one that has not been made yet. Like Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

My passion for my campaign became official on 31st January 2011; I started a Facebook group with over 1,000 followers. I started to attend anti-crime events, and I have now been approached by a film company to produce an anti-gun and knife crime DVD for my campaign, which will distributed across London high schools and anti-crime events once finished.

Only three months into my campaign, the issue of gun and knife crime tragically reached close to home when a person I knew lost a loved one. I have given my campaign drive, motivation and determination to achieve the success it has reached today. I travelled an emotional journey, meeting with families who’ve lost a loved one to gun and knife crime only furthering my ambition to reduce gun and knife crime in the UK .