This week the programme captures the sombre mood in Zimbabwe and plays protest and revolutionary music. Bob Marleyâ€™s Get up Stand Up, Zimbabwe, Jimmy Cliffâ€™s Suffering in the Land, and Thomas Mapfumoâ€™s Mamvemve and Jojo are played on the show. Lance Guma and Brilliant Pongo team up to talk about the arrests and torture of opposition activists in Zimbabwe. The messages in the songs played are also analysed and applied to events in the country.
Date of broadcast: 8 March 2007.
This is Lance Guma, come join me as we go Behind the Headlines, a programme that looks into the issues and individuals dominating the news, where others have scratched the surface we dig depper to bring you the full story, every Thursday on SW Radio Afrcia, Zimbabweâ€™s independent voice.
This week the UK Court of Appeal sent the AA asylum test case back to the Asylum and Immigration and Tribunal because the lower court ignored some of the oral evidence presented. Now what does this decision mean for failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers in the United Kingdom. I speak to Sarah Harland from the Zimbabwe Association. Sarah welcome to the programme.
Lance: Obviously the starting point is what is the immediate effect of this decision
Sarah: The immediate effect of the decision should be that Zimbabwean asylum seekers in the UK should sleep a bit more easily because until the case is fully determined and heard at the tribunal they shouldâ€™nt be forced removals or detentions of Zimbabwean asylum seekers. If we had lost or if AA had lost the appeal at the court, the Home Office would be in a position to remove people immediately
Lance: Some have asked why this particular AA case has a bearing on their own applications.
Sarah: The reasons AA has a bearing on other cases is the position being used as a kind of test case for Zimbabweans. Now the information thats being collected by the Refugee Legal Centre for the AA case is also relevant to other peopleâ€™s cases. As an individual it will be very difficult for each individual to collect as much information as has been collected by the LRC for the AA case. And all that evidence should be of use to other Zimbabweans cases.
Lance: But what it means though is that they can still process their own appeals separately.
Sarah: Cases are going through all the time. The only cases which are stuck ,and aren’t moving at all, are those cases which are completely based on AA and have no other factors involved .
Lance: There seems to be a dominant theme with these cases where someone says they have lodged an appeal with the Home Office and they havent heard from the Home Office in years, Why does this happen?
Sarah: It has happened because back in early 2000 there was a vast amount of asylum applications like roughly 80000 a year , this built up a huge backlog. The backlog at the moment is about half a million cases and all these cases have got to be processed by the Home Office thats why there is such a long time.
Lance: Now back to the AA case , the central query seems to be what happens to deportees at the Harare International Airport. How difficult will it be to convince the courts deportees are indeed at risk considering that most of this is oral evidence.
Sarah: There is a certain amount of information which is not oral which has been well documented bearing on the harm at Harare Airport. Now the point of the whole case and why it has been sent back to the tribunal was because the High Court judges considered that the tribunal had not properly scrutinised the evidence in the case. There was a range of different evidence all of which showed that there was serious violence taking place at Harare Airport.
Lance: Now why did the judge choose to ignore this ?
Sarah: You mean the tribunal judges?
Lance: Yes the tribunal judges
Sarah: I dont know why they ignored it but the effects of them not taking account of this has meant that the case is being sent back again.
Lance: Appeal court judges said they are satisfied with the tribunalâ€™s ruling that failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers do not face automatic risk if deported. Now is it not a disadvantage to have the same judges in the tribunal who made that decision meeting to reconsider the evidence they previously ignored .
Sarah: At first it seemed as though it would be a disadvantage but on reading through the judgement very carefully it became apparent that the High Court had been quite severely critical of the judges and they had ordered them to scrutinize the evidence properly. It would be very difficult for the tribunal judges to try to ignore things which could be of consequence, they will have to consider everything far more thouroughly this time because they know they have the eyes of the High Court on them.
Lance: Some have said the problem with this case is that it has assumed a very legal angle whereas a political approach would have worked better, would you agree with that description?
Sarah: People are entitled to their own opinion, but when one views the lack of political activitiy by most Zimbabweans in the UK for the last few years it seemed unlikely that Zimbabweans would have got together in enough numbers to make a real impact.
Lance: The National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns says Zimbabweans affected should set up anti-deportation campaigns as there is no assurance the AA test case will succeed, now, whats your approach to this strategy?
Sarah: Our approach to the NCADC is that the work they do is extremely valuable for some people, there are some asylum seekers for who, campaigning is exactly the right thing that they should do and they should get involved with and those people should be working on campaigns to keep themselves in the UK or to keep themselves protected. There is also a large number of people, that form that work, they dont like being photographed, there are shy at people looking at them, they are not the sort of people to be at ease with a big high profile campaign. The other thing about a high profile campaign, is people are very exposed, and if it doesnâ€™t work then they are very exposed, but that’s a decision to be taken by activists, and many will, and for some it will be just the right thing for them to do.
Lance: Right, I know im putting you in a corner here because it involves you making some form of prophetic prediction, so to speak, but how long will this case take to resolve?
Sarah: I’m afraid I dont know, but what I think will happen or what I think, you know, a likely view is that if the case returns to the tribunal fairly quickly by legal terms that will possibly be in about 2 months time, anything from 6 to 8 weeks onwards, okay. Then it will be heard again at the tribunal. If the outcome is that the tribunal decides that there is evidence to show that there is significant violence etc, at harare airport and that most people will be subject to risk and they decided in favour of AA then I would think that the Refugee Legal Centre would have a better chance of getting some sort of general protection for Zimbabweans, okay. If it comes out the other way round, and the tribunal finds against AA, then the lawyers would have to study the findings, the rulings, scrutinize it, to see if there has been any legal errors and make a decision on how to proceed.
Lance: Some have asked this question Sarah, how feasible is the prospect of Zimbabweans getting an amnesty until things settle down back home.
Sarah: This year there is going to be a great deal of change in the UK, there is a mounting campaign called â€˜Strangers into Citizensâ€™ which is gathering momentum and is campaigning for the right of people who have been in the UK for 4 years, to get the right to work for 2 years and those people must not have criminal records,and they should speak English and other features. They are huge moves afoot to try and stabilize and regularise peoples position in the country anyway. The Refugee Legal Centre has also requested some sort of protection in the UK until Zimbabwe improves for people and itâ€™s also asked for people to be allowed to work and support themselves particularly in light of time the AA case has taken.
Lance: My final question to you Sarah is a bit of a tough one I know, a lot of people are now hesitant to adhere to their reporting conditions for fear of being detained and deported. I know as an organisation, how difficult is it for you, to advise on what to do in such a tricky situation.
Sarah: Our view is that people should be reporting, okay, and sticking to their reporting regulations. The reason for that is because the Home Office has undertaken not to move Zimbabweans until the AA case is finished. That will be months and months away. If people are not being forcibly removed, then they shouldnt be detained either, but if they dont adhere to their reporting restrictions and picked up on the street then they may be liable for detention because they cant be trusted to stick by their reporting conditions, do you see the problem.
Sarah: If someone has stopped reporting years ago they are now in a different catergory, but people who have been reporting regularly should continue to report.
Lance: Anyway we have to end it there that was Sarah Harland from the Zimbabwe Association and I know a lot of our listeners there are in similar situations and this would have been a useful discussion for them. If you have questions for the programme please e-mail them to [email protected] and we will certainly get Sarah and her team to see what they can do and address some of those queries. And Sarah thank you so much for joining me on the programme
Sarah: Thanks Lance, bye.
Chief refuses permission to bury Gift Tandare
The MDC has reacted with shock to reports that a local Chief has refused to allow the family of Gift Tandare, the MDC activist shot by police Sunday, to bury him in his home area of Mount Darwin. This has triggered a major political row between the MDC and the Chief, whom the opposition party believe is getting his orders from Zanu (PF).
Tanzanian President in talks with Mugabe as AU joins condemnation
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete is reported to be in Zimbabwe for talks with Mugabe. He is part of the SADC troika who have been tasked with discussions on the Zimbabwe crisis. Strong condemnation of the state sponsored torture continues to come from around the world but government remained adamant they will punish resistance.
MDC dismiss violence allegations
Accusations by authorities that the MDC has set up militia groups and is firebombing police stations have been dismissed as an attempt to deflect attention from the police brutality dominating headlines around the world. State radio reported that 3 female police officers were injured in the attacks and that a police post in Gweru was firebombed.
MDC Secretary General says Mugabe resisting peaceful transition
The opposition party says the regime may have physically beaten them on Sunday as they attempted to gather in Highfields but in so doing actually watered their spirits. Tendai Biti said what happened on Sunday was unbelievable and an unmitigated orgy of barbaric violence. But he said the regime is on its way out and that Mugabe and his ZANU PF know it.
CIO operative led KweKwe torture
A Central Intelligence Organisation operative identified only by his first name of Lizwe allegedly led the police torture against 12 MDC activists in a KweKwe police station on Wednesday.
Mugabe visits Avenues Clinic
The 22 tortured and brutalised opposition supporters being treated at Avenues Clinic were surprised Wednesday when sirens indicated that Mugabe had arrived. But he wasnâ€™t there to visit them. Heâ€™d popped in to see his sister Sabina who is being treated for an unknown illness.
The radical pressure group Free-Zim Youth UK on Wednesday disrupted an address by Ghanaian President John Kuffour in London. He becomes the third high profile African politician, after South Africaâ€™s foreign affairs minister Nkosazana Dhlamini Zuma and Mozambiqueâ€™s president Armando Guebuza, to have a speech interrupted by the youths. Lance Guma speaks to Alois Mbawara and Brilliant Pongo, both members of the pressure group who took part in the protest. What is the strategy behind this heckling of African leaders?
Two more shot and injured by police in Glen View
Despite worldwide condemnation of the brutal assaults and torture of opposition officials and activists, police shot 2 more mourners at the Tandare home in the Glen View suburb of Harare late Tuesday night. About 50 mourners at the home were also assaulted by police. MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai is in intensive care with a fractured skull.
KweKwe MDC leadership tortured in prison cells
The entire local leadership of the MDC in KweKwe has been tortured in prison cells at a police station after being rounded up just before the start of an anti-government protest on Wednesday. MDC activist Alex Senge one of the protest organisers in KweKwe, said they suspect someone tipped off police because by the time they got to venue at the main bus terminus it was surrounded by heavily armed riot police.
Church leader appeals to police and army to lay down arms
Pastor Berejena from the Christian Alliance has appealed to the security forces to stop their brutality. Activist Gift Tandare was killed in cold blood, others have been shot and injured and scores tortured. Despite the international outcry police are continuing with their clampdown on the opposition.
American Ambassador condemns situation in Zimbabwe
The American ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell, has spoken strongly against the recent actions by the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the government of Robert Mugabe. Ambassador Dell was at the RottenRow Court House on Tuesday where he witnessed the injuries suffered by MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai and opposition officials and civic leaders.
Hundreds attend London demonstration against Mugabe regime
Hundreds of Zimbabweans living in the UK on Wednesday held a successful protest against governmentâ€™s violent crackdown on political protests, including the arrest and torture in detention of Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition MDC leader.
Mutare MDC activists released after two days in custody
Sixty MDC activists who were arrested in Mutare on Monday have been released after being charged under POSA and made to pay Z$20 000 fines each.
Television producer Peter Moyo speaks to Reportersâ€™ Forum in part 2 of this series looking at the scandals rocking the countryâ€™s diamond industry. Moyo infiltrated the highly fortified mining fields guarded by several arms of state security and says he did this by posing as a member of a ZBC film crew. He says the Kimberly diamond certification process has failed to monitor diamonds from Zimbabwe. Lance Guma speaks to him and finds out just what is happening in Marange and who is doing what there?
Dear Family and Friends,
If you are a follower of events in Zimbabwe you will know that the pressure is increasing at a dramatic rate. Almost every day we hear or read of demonstrations, protests and marches. It takes a considerable amount of courage to take part in these events which are met with a range of repressive responses including arrests, beatings in custody, water cannons, baton sticks, tear gas and riot police.
In The balance this week Gugulethu Moyo focuses on the legal aspects surrounding the recent arrests and torture of opposition officials, activists and civic leaders. Gugu also investigates the alleged refusal by the attorney general to prosecute this group who were arrested last Sunday at the Save Zimbabwe rally that was violently blocked by police.