Memorandum from the Scotland Zimbabwe
1. The Scotland Zimbabwe Group was launched
in Edinburgh in October 2001. It is linked to the Britain Zimbabwe
Society which for over 20 years has sought to be a vehicle of
friendship, support and solidarity with Zimbabwe, building on
links in a non-partisan way, but concerned about human rights
and democracy. Group participants are Scots and Zimbabweans living
in Scotland, including some asylum seekers, working with organisations
such as ACTSA Scotland. All of us have direct links with organisations
in Zimbabwe such as the Council of Churches, and/or with individuals
2. In the last six months the group has
met with Professor Rugano Zvogbo, University of East Midlands
(Zimbabwe), Ms Evelyn Masaiti MP, Shadow Minister for Youth and
Gender, and Mr Godfrey Kanyenze, Zimbabwe Congress of Trades Unions.
On the occasion of a vigil held in February in central Edinburgh
for free and fair elections we received strong written messages
of support for the Zimbabwe people and expressions of concern
about the political, economic and human rights situation from
a number of Scottish civic leaders including the Moderator of
the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (who visited Zimbabwe
officially in January), the General Secretary, STUC, the Primus
of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Catholic Archbishop of St
Andrews and Edinburgh and the leaders of the main Scottish political
parties. A personal message was also received from Sir David
Steel, convenor of the Scottish Parliament, who was officially
present at the independence ceremony in Harare in 1980.
3. Such concern is increasing as post-election
we receive information of arrests of, and violence against, known
or suspected opposition supporters, some known personally to group
members, and as responsible groups such as the Amani Trust (Zimbabwe)
publish evidence of human rights abuses, some of which are exacerbating
the already existing and serious incidence of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe.
4. We offer the above information in order
to underline the concerns felt in Scotland. We recognise these
are shared by the British Government and that much work, both
publicly and "behind the scenes", is on-going.
5. We would like to put forward the following
points. They reflect only those informed concerns of our group
upon which we feel able to comment.
6. Overt protestations from the UK to Mr
Mugabe, while not necessarily making the situation worse, do not
currently seem to be productive. Our own contacts endorse the
view that South Africa, particularly, and other countries in the
region hold the key.
7. Nevertheless it is important that the
people of Zimbabwe continue to know that the international community
are aware of events, appreciate the urgency of the situation and
that as soon as possible, positive partnerships, investment, links
and development assistance will be re-established.
8. It is important that the Government can
avail itself of accurate information. We were disturbed, for
instance, to learn of the outdated country report for Zimbabwe
being used by the Home Office for adjudicators in immigration
and asylum cases.
9. It is important to find additional ways
to work with the many civil society groups which we believe are
the key to Zimbabwe's recovery. The fact that the bloodbath forecast
due to people's dismay at the election results did not occur
is an indication of their influence, in spite of the current campaign
of retribution. However, there are signs that many are becoming
exhausted and demoralised. The need is to support non-violent,
constructive and democratic responses to state violence and to
10. This also means continuing to support
NGOs, both here and in Zimbabwe, with experience and innovative
ways of working, so that appropriate expertise and development
aid reaches the intended targets.
11. Equally while new cultural exchanges
may be difficult to set up at present, it is important to sustain
those that exist and to welcome visiting groups and academics
in order to continue to learn from Zimbabwe.
12. Ways of supporting the independent press
whose journalists have shown outstanding courage need to be found.
13. Information to, and by the media in
the UK must avoid racial categorisation. Current activities by
the ruling party are opening old wounds and creating destructive
14. We hope that evidence will be sought
from some of the many Zimbabweans now living temporarily or as
refugees in the UK, for example, the former Chair of the Zimbabwe
National Constitutional Assembly.
15. It is necessary now for British policymakers
to acknowledge its own part in bringing about this situation:
eg its lack of initiative in the area of land reform, before a
new and truly equitable relationship can work in the future.
16. Meanwhile we recommend that while the
situation in Zimbabwe remains problematic, an obvious form of
action is to make special if temporary arrangements for Zimbabweans
in this country experiencing problems due to the current political
climate, such as accessing funds from home, obtaining student
visas or being able to make secure communication. We endorse the
calls from Canon Collins Education Trust for Southern Africa (CCETSA)
and other educational grant-giving bodies for increased grants
via government sources for Zimbabwean students. We have evidence
that some educational institutions are not aware of the causes
of their difficulties.
17. We very much welcomed the Home Secretary's
decision before the presidential elections to suspend deportation
for Zimbabwean asylum seekers, and hope that this will not be
reversed until their safety can be assured.
18. We recognise these issues are not comprehensive
and likely also to be made by more established groups than ours.
However, we welcome the opportunity to contribute to these discussions.
Scotland Zimbabwe Group (Linked to the Britain