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With the army going unpaid while the government tries to find the money, the Vigil delivered a petition to the Botswana High Commission in London calling for the help of the Southern African Development Community to avert disaster in Zimbabwe.
A Vigil delegation was given a courteous reception at the High Commission, being greeted by its defence secretary, a bridadier, and then introduced to a senior diplomat, who accepted a letter to pass on to President Ian Khama as Chair of SADC. They were interested to hear that a member of the delegation had been at school with President Khama in Zambia. Our letter said:
'Dear President Khama
In the last 15 years or so Zimbabweans have increasingly looked to Botswana as a model of good governance. We have been comforted that Botswana could always be relied on to speak the truth to President Mugabe – even if it was a lone voice.
We are grateful for your patience in the face of the influx of Zimbabwean refugees and other problems we have caused you as our country's economy collapsed. You have been a true friend and we will not forget your solidarity with our suffering people.
Your predecessor, former President Festus Mogae, was quoted by the UN recently as saying: 'Sovereignty has limits like any other right. A leader cannot kill and harass his people and hide behind sovereignty. A true leader does not kill but protects his people. We still have leaders in Africa who think they are indispensable, larger than life and more important than their countries. That must stop. If a leader loses control, the world will and should intervene to save the people.'
We of the Zimbabwe Vigil have been protesting outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London for the past 14 years demanding an end to human rights violations and calling for free and fair elections. We fear that our country could be torn apart as President Mugabe clings to office into his nineties with no designated successor.
In your closing months as Chair of the Southern African Development Community we submit to you the following petition calling for SADC intercession to avert disaster. The petition has been signed by thousands of people from all over the world who have passed by our Vigil outside the Embassy.
"To the Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), President Ian Khama of Botswana We wish to alert you to alarming threats by the military in Zimbabwe to employ violence against people opposed to the Zanu PF regime. The threats come amid worsening splits in the party and rising popular outrage at the demolition of the homes of the poor and the imposition of pre-paid water meters for an unreliable supply. The Commander of the Presidential Guard Brigadier-General Anselem Sanyatwe has threatened force to stop ousted Vice-President Joice Mujuru from opposing Mugabe. He told his troops 'Professionalism is over . . . Zanu PF should rule forever'. The national army commander Lieutenant-General Phillip Sibanda later warned that 'the Zanu PF axe' could be wielded again. You will be aware that Zimbabwe has recently been judged the worst governed country in SADC. Bad governance has destroyed the economy, reducing people to desperation while the ruling elite drive past in their luxury cars from their mansions to the expensive restaurants. There is growing resentment. Provocative moves by the military could cause an explosion of anger. We call on SADC to prepare to intervene to stop a meltdown."
We remember how SADC facilitated the government of national unity after the violent 2008 elections, arresting catastrophe. It is not for Zimbabweans in the diaspora to prescribe what any solution should be but we want a government that observes the rule of law and will conduct free and fair elections. We believe this is the key to the restoration of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe Vigil Co-ordinators'
The following people made up the delegation on Tuesday: Alfredy Mukuvare, Anna Pfende, Cephas Maswoswa, Chipo Kamhunga, Chipo Parirenyatwa, Deborah Harry, Dennis Benton, Eldridge Culverwell, Esther Munyira, John Burke, Percy Dube, Rose Benton and Rosemary Maponga.
Other points· There was great interest in a report the Vigil put out on Monday about the closure of the NHS clinic in Nottingham run by Zimbabwean doctor Sylvester Nyatsuro and his wife Veronica who have violently seized a farm in Zimbawe owned by a white couple (see: british-medical-centre-run-by-zimbabwean-doctor-closed). Latest news we have is that the sudden closure of the clinic was to protect the welfare of the patients. We are waiting for a full statement from the National Health Service.
· We are glad to hear from the Occupy Africa Unity Square protestors that their arrested activists have now all been released after bail was paid. They include Linda Masarire who memorably declared: 'We are sick and tired of being sick and tired'. Lynda is a member of our sister organisation Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR). We are told that some of the protestors have lost their jobs and nearly all have lost their phones so donations for their welfare would be welcome. If you wish to contribute, please ecocash +263774059140. The recommended route is worldremit.com. For a statement by the protestors check: www.bulawayo24.com/.
· 'The economic crisis which has brought Zimbabwe to its knees has nothing to do with United States sanctions but the failure by President Robert Mugabe's government to pay the country's debts.' This is what NewZimbabwe reported from a meeting addressed by the US Ambassador in Harare on Thursday (see: allafrica.com/ – Zimbabwe: Sanctions Not Responsible for Zimbabwe's Crisis - Says U.S. Ambassador). Predictably the government propaganda organ The Chronicle took a different line. Its headline was: Illegal sanctions hurting Zimbabwe: US Envoy (see: illegal-sanctions-hurting-zimbabwe-us-envoy). The Vigil knows who to believe.
· Thanks to those who came early to help set up: Rashiwe Bayisayi, Benjamin Chigamba, Mavis Chisvo, Isabell Gwatidzo, Barbara Kachidza, Etines Kapiya, Fungayi Mabhunu, Phillip Mahlahla, Nancy Makurira, Rosemary Maponga, Cephas Maswoswa, Sharon Moyo, Eletha Mpofu, Roseline Mukucha, Alfredy Mukuvare, Esther Munyira, Mandifusa Mushambadope, Mduduzi Ndlovu, Chipo Parirenyatwa, Anna Pfende and Elector Zvorwadza. Thanks to Roseline, Sharon and Esther for looking after the front table and to Cephas, Benjamin, Alfredy, Phillip and Mduduzi for putting up the banners. Chipo P and Isabell worked hard to raise funds through ROHR Central London branch's lucky dip which was made more enticing by the following contributions: chocolates from Chipo P, eyeshadow and moisturiser from Roseline and a teddy bear from John Burke. ROHR Reading branch members Elector and Barbara sold raffle tickets for their forthcoming fundraiser.
For latest Vigil pictures check: Zimbabwe Vigil Flickr. Please note: Vigil photos can only be downloaded from our Flickr website. For videos of Vigils and other events, check the ROHR facebook page: facebook.com/www.rohrzimbabwe.org.
FOR THE RECORD: 47 signed the register.