British MP condemns Mawarire visa refusal
A LEADING British parliamentarian has said it is disgraceful that prominent Zimbabwean civil rights campaigners are being refused visas to visit the UK to talk about the struggle against President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF regime.
Kate Hoey, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe, was speaking at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Wednesday at a meeting of the Mike Campbell Foundation which was set up to address injustices involved in Mugabe’s land seizures.
She said a visa had been denied to one of the speakers invited to the gathering, Gift Konjana, who had been detained more than thirty times and his home petrol-bombed for helping destitute farm workers.
Other activists refused visas include Pastor Evan Mawarire, leader of the #thisflag protest, now exiled in the United States, who had been invited to address the parliamentary group as well as to speak at the London foreign policy think tank, the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House). Another excluded activist was Patson Dzamara, brother of the abducted Itai, who was also due to speak to the parliamentary group.
Hoey said the British government was letting in representatives of the Mugabe regime, including people who had been involved in killings, as well as other tainted people such as Joice Mujuru, but was more and more turning away seasoned campaigners for change.
Kate said the British Ambassador to Harare Catriona Laing was angry at the refusal of visas and had taken the matter up with the relevant government department. The problem appeared to involve financial guarantees regarding their stay in the UK. Kate suggested people write to their MPs to increase awareness in Parliament of what was happening.
A speaker from Zimbabwe who was able to get a visa was Bishop Ancelimo Magaya, founder of Grace Ablaze Ministries International, making his first visit to the UK.
The Bishop, who is blind, received a standing ovation for his speech in which he said the people of Zimbabwe were ‘wounded and despondent’. He spoke of abductions and a tired dictatorial leadership holding on to power by brutality. Mugabe had mastered the art of giving the impression that he allowed democratic elections but they were all rigged and people intimidated. ‘Diplomats don’t see this’, he added.