By Cathy Buckle
It’s been one of those weeks where we’ve been shaking our heads in disbelief all the time. A week of ship captains, torturers, deported pensioners and watching TV in the dark.
First came the interview with Zanu PF’s Patrick Chinamasa by the (Zimbabwe) Independent newspaper. Asked if the 87 year old Mr Mugabe would be the party’s presidential candidate in the next election, Chinamasa said:
“We will put our best foot forward and President Mugabe is our best foot. We can’t change the captain in the midst of a storm.”
Then came two stories of Zimbabweans in exile which left us open-mouthed and wide eyed. On the one hand is the 47 year old Zanu PF spy and torturer who has been given community service and granted asylum in the UK. On the other hand is an 88 year old woman who lost her farm to Zanu PF thugs, went to the UK to live with her daughter and has now been told she can’t stay in the country.
When the UK Immigration Judge, David Archer said last year that there was no doubt that ex Zimbabwean CIO spy Philip Machemedze was “deeply involved in savage acts of extreme violence,” it seemed pretty obvious that the man would be deported from England.
Machemedze had admitted to electrocuting, slapping, beating and punching a farmer; smashing someone’s jaw with pliers and putting salt into the wounds of a female MDC member who was being held in an underground cell. In the four years that he’d been a spy for Mr Mugabe’s government, Justice Archer said of Machemedze’s victims:
“Some were killed slowly and their bodies disposed of. He witnessed people with their limbs cut off. Other acts of torture were too gruesome to recount.”
A few months later Philip Machemedze was granted asylum in the UK. A tribunal ruled that under European Human Rights law Machemedze’s life would be in danger if he was returned to Zimbabwe. “Those rights are absolute and whatever crimes PM has committed, he cannot be returned to face the highly likely prospect of torture and execution without trial,” the Judge ruled.
The reason this whole story has surfaced again is because Machemedze had been living and working illegally in the UK for seven years before he was found out. Finally charged for working illegally, Machemedze’s sentence has just been deferred for six months in exchange for half a day a week spent in service for the ‘poor and needy’ at a local Pentecostal Church.
Making her ruling, Judge Julian Lambert said: “If I see you have done good work when you return and I have your promise that you will continue that good work I shall give you your liberty.” Punished with church service for working illegally but going scott free for torture. What about those ‘savage acts of extreme violence,’ and what about the human rights of his victims?
On the other hand is the story of the 88 year old Zimbabwean woman who has just been told she cannot stay in the UK. News reports say that Mrs Werrit went to live with her daughter and son in law in Kent eight years ago after her farm was taken over by supporters of Zanu PF who said they would cut her throat if she came back.
The UK Border Agency said it had “fully considered” Ms Werrit’s claims of persecution in Zimbabwe and “found she was not in need of international protection”. Ironically Mrs Werrit, is just a few months older than President Mugabe but will come back to no health care, no pension and no government assistance for any of her needs.
Lastly, cause for head shaking came with a list of quotes in a local newspaper. NewsDay’s front page banner headline was: ‘Gaddafi’s bloody end,’ and inside came: ‘Some of Gaddafi’s craziest quotes.’ My favourites were: “Were it not for electricity we would have to watch television in the dark, ” and “A woman has the right to run for election whether she’s male or female.”
The end of Colonel Gaddafi sends a dramatic message to dictators who continue to fool themselves that their people love them. It’s a message that ends in a storm drain under the road.
Until next week, thanks for reading, love Cathy