Zimbabweans in the diaspora want to see change back home | Africa | DW | 02.08.2013
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Zimbabweans in the diaspora want to see change back home

For many Zimbabweans living in the diaspora, another election victory by Robert Mugabe will delay their return home. They do not want to live in a country ruled by the man who has been in power for the last 33 years.

The news that the party of President Robert Mugabe, ZANU-PF, is leading after elections held on Wednesday (31.07.2013) has been received with disappointment but little surprise by many Zimbabweans at home and abroad. Partial results were released on Friday 2 August by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). The African Union (AU) which monitored the polls says they were conducted in a peaceful environment. However the AU also said it had some "serious concerns" and regional monitors from southern Africa said it was too early to pronounce the vote fair.

President Robert Mugabe addresses a media conference on the eve of the country's general elections (Photo: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

On the eve of the poll, President Mugabe said the loser should step down

Mugabe's main rival Morgan Tsvangirai, prime minister in a fragile coalition with Mugabe and leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has declared the vote "null and void."

One of the main complaints concerns the late release of the electoral roll. Public scrutiny of the voters' roll was of vital "strategic importance" to verify the accuracy of the contents and establish correct numbers of eligible electors, said Aisha Abdullahi, the AU's commissioner for political affairs.

Protests in London

In Britain, tens of thousands of Zimbabweans closely followed the election. Crowds gathered outside Zimbabwe House in central London and demonstrators told correspondent Trevor Grundy they planned to continue protesting even if Mugabe is confirmed as head of state for another five years.

There are some 300,000 Zimbabweans in Britain. Most of them arrived in the 1990s. Since 2002, members of an organization called Zimbabwe Vigil have been holding protests outside the Zimbabwean embassy in the capital. There was an atmosphere of disappointment and frustration as the week came to an end and it became clear that Robert Mugabe was likely to continue as president.

Many of the Zimbabweans living in Britain would like to return home and be reunited with their families, but only if the political situation improves which, from their perspective, means the Mugabe era should end.

Zimbabweans in London sign a petition calling for a fair election (Photo:BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Many Zimbabweans in London signed a petition calling for a fair election

Ephraim Tapa runs a smaller protest group called Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe. He is determined not to give up and he draws strength from one of Africa's most famous figures. "Nelson Mandela was 27 years in prison. He did not give up. He was under very harsh conditions," Tapa said. "We are here in the United Kingdom. We believe that the environment is supportive, enabling and we will continue until a free and fair election under international supervision is held in Zimbabwe." Tapa said he could "guarantee that the majority of Zimbabweans in the UK will be going back home as soon as we have freedom, peace and justice guaranteed in Zimbabwe."

Historical comparison

Peter Tatchell is one of Britain's best known human rights campaigners. He twice tried to make a citizen's arrest on Robert Mugabe and on one occasion was badly beaten up by Mugabe's bodyguards in Brussels.

"Sadly, Robert Mugabe who started out as a good leader has become corrupted. He's gone from being a liberation hero to becoming a tyrant, He is worse than Ian Smith. The oppression of Robert Mugabe is worse than the ghastly racial oppression of Ian Smith," Tatchell told DW correspondent Trevor Grundy.

Ian Smith's all-white government ruled Zimbabwe when it was called Rhodesia before ZANU-PF came to power 33 years ago.

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