‘We are not white we’re black’ – Zimbabwe Vigil Diary: 2nd February 2013 Print
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Sunday, 03 February 2013 16:23

The Vigil has been fully occupied this week rebutting the controversial new book ‘Zimbabwe Takes Back its Land’, which argues that agricultural production is recovering after the farm seizures and that we should let bygones be bygones and just move on.


One of the authors, Dr Joseph Hanlon of the Open University, came to a meeting of our Zimbabwe Action Forum after the Vigil to defend the book. He had a rough ride.


We invited him to come because we could not get into the meeting at the London think tank Chatham House on Thursday at which he and the other two authors of the book outlined their argument. Having read the book we were disappointed not to be allowed to confront the authors so we staged a demonstration outside Chatham House as the audience arrived, displaying our banner ‘No to Mugabe, No to Starvation’. We had consulted leading economists in Zimbabwe for their opinions on the assertions made in the book so we were able to make available the facts the authors had ignored.


The material that we handed out was:

·         Open letter to Chatham House from the Vigil

·         Article from SW Radio Africa: ‘Concern as land grab chaos ‘swept under the carpet’

·         Statistics from Eddie Cross, MP, MDC Policy Co-ordinator General

·         Letter to the UK Guardian from Ben Freeth, author of ‘Mugabe and the White African’, in response to their piece on the book

·         Comments by Ben Freeth and Glyn Hunter (co-author of ‘Voices of Zimbabwe: the Pain, the Courage, the Hope’) on assertions made by Hanlon in an email to the Vigil

·         Article from the MDC calling for an urgent land audit


Access the above information via http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/vigil-news/campaign-news/471-chatham-house-information on our campaigns page.


Although we couldn’t get in, we noticed that several Zimbabwean diplomats attended the Chatham House meeting as well as the notorious Zanu PF apologist George Shiri who, despite his devotion to Mugabe, has made his home in the UK. After people stopped going in we asked the front desk if there was space for us and were turned away again. But our spies inside told us there was room.  One of them noted in an email: ‘Irony of whites on the platform largely justifying what happened after the land invasions and blacks outside protesting’. 


The Vigil is disgusted by Chatham House, which is largely sponsored by the British government, now apparently keen to lift sanctions and join in the diamond rush. When weeks ago we asked for tickets why did Chatham House never get back to us as promised? More important, why were they giving floor space to Mugabe propaganda? Perhaps Chatham House remembers the last time we wrote about them, when we were nauseated by the pandering to Zanu PF by the British Ambassador to Zimbabwe (see: Vigil diary of 13/10/2010 – http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/the-vigil-diary/271-zimbabwe-vigil-diary-13th-november-2010).


The President of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union, Charles Taffs, believes there are dark motives. Mr Taffs, who came to London for the launch of the book ,said: ‘There’s been a number of books on this issue and primarily they’ve been written by academics; and these academics are being asked to write these books favourably for certain influences and that’s what we’re seeing here. We’re seeing this whole issue of the agricultural scene being swept under the carpet and multi agencies and countries encouraging that to happen. I think Zimbabwe’s coming into the limelight now in terms of its mineral wealth; its strategic placement within Africa, both in terms of mineral supply and in terms of access to central Africa, and countries want to get involved and they see the land issue as holding it back. So they’re trying desperately to sweep this under the carpet.’


Mr Taffs, who was speaking in an interview with SW Radio Africa, added  that the research for the book was based on only three farms out of 5,300 taken over – and the farms were in Mashonaland Central, hardly an average agricultural area (see: Charles Taffs talks to Alex Bell on Diaspora Diaries – http://www.swradioafrica.com/2013/02/01/charles-taffs-talks-to-alex-bell-on-diaspora-diaries/).


We were glad that Dr Hanlon came to our meeting to discuss the book. We must report that nobody accepted his arguments. Daizy Fabian said: ‘My father was a farmer but we were taken over and lost everything and we’re not white we’re black’. Wellington Muringai, who was a Zimbabwean civil servant at the time of land seizures, dismissed the assertion in the book that the war veterans were not working for Mugabe. He said the land seizures were a direct result of the no vote in the referendum of 2000 asking for an increase of Mugabe’s powers. Another supporter said he had recently returned to Zimbabwe and trying to get trustworthy information was impossible and yet Dr Hanlon’s team claimed they had managed to get reliable information from all sorts of sources.


There was laughter when Dr Hanlon said ‘I believe the war veterans we talked to who occupied the land’. He went on to say that the book had relied heavily on research already done in Zimbabwe. This was met by cries of ‘you are working for Mugabe’. People at the Forum said that even the title of the book was racist: it was not Zimbabweans who had taken back their land but Zanu PF who had seized it.


People were worried that this book would be used by the British government as an excuse to say that everything is ok in Zimbabwe and asylum seekers could be sent back home. Vigil supporters think that, on the contrary, we are being sold down the river by the British government which appears to be desperate to re-engage with Zimbabwe irrespective of the welfare of the people. We expect sanctions to be lifted soon to celebrate the bogus re-election of Mugabe.


Other points

·         It was encouraging to have with us a group of international students from the London School of Economics to help us set up the Vigil.  They were Chinese, Japanese and Armenian. They were very interested in the Vigil and  stayed most of the afternoon and said they would come again.

·         We are pleased to see that Nehanda Radio is promoting the new CD of the Zimbabwe Vigil Band (Dumi Tutani and Farai Narema) – see: http://nehandaradio.com/2013/02/01/zimbabwe-vigil-band-release-new-songs/.

·         We have a new postal address: BM Zimbabwe Vigil, London WC1N 3XX. It was necessary to move from Royal Mail which was becoming too expensive.


For latest Vigil pictures check: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zimbabwevigil/. Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website – they cannot be downloaded from the slideshow on the front page of the Zimvigil website.


FOR THE RECORD: 39 signed the register.



·         ROHR Leicester Branch meeting. Saturday 9th February from 12.30 – 3.30 pm. Venue: The Brite Centre, Braunstone Ave, Braunstone, Leicester LE3 1LE. Contact: Christopher Kamuzonde 07449150041, Enniah Dube 07403439707

·         Next Swaziland Vigil. Saturday 9th February from 10 am – 1 pm. Venue: Swazi High Commission, 20 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6LB.  Please support our Swazi friends. Nearest stations: St James’s Park and Victoria. www.swazilandvigil.co.uk.

·         Zimbabwe Action Forum (ZAF). Saturday 2nd March from 6.30 – 9.30 pm. Venue: Strand Continental Hotel (first floor lounge), 143 Strand, London WC2R 1JA. The meeting will take place straight after the Vigil. Directions: The Strand is the same road as the Vigil. From the Vigil it’s about a 10 minute walk, in the direction away from Trafalgar Square. The Strand Continental is situated on the south side of the Strand between Somerset House and the turn off onto Waterloo Bridge. The entrance is marked by a big sign high above and a sign for its famous Indian restaurant at street level. It's next to a newsagent. Nearest underground: Temple (District and Circle lines) and Holborn.

·         Zimbabwe Vigil Highlights 2012 can be viewed on this link: http://www.zimvigil.co.uk/the-vigil-diary/467-vigil-highlights-2012.  Links to previous years’ highlights are listed on 2012 Highlights page.

·         The Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR) is the Vigil’s partner organization based in Zimbabwe. ROHR grew out of the need for the Vigil to have an organization on the ground in Zimbabwe which reflected the Vigil’s mission statement in a practical way. ROHR in the UK actively fundraises through membership subscriptions, events, sales etc to support the activities of ROHR in Zimbabwe. Please note that the official website of ROHR Zimbabwe is http://www.rohrzimbabwe.org/. Any other website claiming to be the official website of ROHR in no way represents the views and opinions of ROHR.

·         Vigil Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=8157345519&ref=ts.

·         Vigil Myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/zimbabwevigil.

·         Useful websites: www.zanupfcrime.com which reports on Zanu PF abuses and www.ipaidabribe.org.zw where people can report corruption in Zimbabwe.