As highlighted in the flyer for The Flame film distributed and also on the NZCN website, attendees saw it all for themselves – basically the role played by a woman soldier in the War of Liberation in Zimbabwe (the story of the battle over land which is still causing upheavals in Zimbabwe today). Based on accounts of women who joined the Liberation War, this powerful fiction film aroused emotions of empathy for the suffering Zimbabweans both abroad and in the diaspora.
In a little more detail the film starts with a brief narration of the Zimbabwe’s colonial history which dates back to 1890 illustrated by several file photos and video clips. This is then followed by the sudden reunion of two ladies (in an urban office) where one of them works. The two are old friends and ex-combatants in the Zimbabwe liberation war. One them whose military name was Flame had traveled all the way from the countryside where apparently her marriage to Danger an ex-combatant as well had flopped due to the latter’s fiery temper from the bush which had also cost him his job. The guy needed anger management lessons and positive rehabilitation which never was. We a shown quite a sharp contrast between the two young women’s social status at this point in time i.e. typical village girl vs. modern urban girl. However, the two share one thing in common, i.e. they are both ex-combatants who walked that route side by side during the war.
We are then given a long and detailed flashback their story – from the time they went to primary school together in the village, forsook their parents to join the war in the neighbouring Mozambique which was quite tough journey through thick and perilous forests, rivers, mountains and caves in which they took shelter at different points of their journey until they reached their destination. Here, in the training camp life was not easy and besides being initially treated like spies, they almost died from starvation and disease. Unlike her friend whose military name was Liberty who continued focused on her goal to further her education through scholarship from missionaries, Flame who wanted to join the war front had to wait for ages before this happened and during that wait she had got raped by one of her male colleagues. Although she had shown traits of bravery in her stint at the war front, Flame was disrupted from that when she gave birth to a baby boy ‘Hondo’ (War) and she was disciplined for that at he camp. Her baby father later apologized to her saying war caused people to forget they were people at some point.
Later on towards the end of the war she fell in love with Danger (who she had first known as a freedom fighter operating from within their neighbourhood before). She went ahead with the affair despite her friend’s advice to stop allowing herself to be easy prey for men.
The war ends. Flame gets married to danger but sooner had problems emanating to Danger’s raging temper which was never addressed after the war. We see Flame receiving a lesson on basic English from her approximately 8-year-old daughter, in the village home. Danger is violent with her beating her up after losing his job as his boss had complained that he was ‘too cheeky’. They separated and Flame headed for the city to join her old time friend and war mate, Liberty who by now was employed and had decent accommodation.
SOON AFTER THE FILM WE HAD A SHORT BREAK WHICH WAS FOLLOWED BY SPEECHES FROM THE FOLLOWING:
Regis Manyanya (NZCN Chairperson)
Innocent Chirawu (NZCN Public Relations Officer)
Amdani Juma Guest Speaker (Ex-Refuge Forum)
Coming from break after the film show, Regis Manyanya was the first speaker. He explained that what the guests had watched was only a fraction of what most Zimbabweans of his generation had either witnessed or experienced. Regis went on to explain how Mugabe and his cronies had committed and continue to commit crimes against humanity and hence their fear to let go their grip on power. Regis gave examples of how the former ‘breadbasket of Africa’ (Zimbabwe) had been reduced to one of the poorest, worst and most unsafe countries in Africa. He quoted the rate of inflation as standing at around 200 000%, a percentage he said was synonymous with the amount of damage done to the people’s lives in that country. He also said that children like ‘Hondo’ who were born from the liberation war abuses became street kids after independence with no one to look after them, not even the state. Some of them had to live on either robbing or begging members of the public and especially tourists.
He then went on to describing the ordeal that failed asylum seekers experience in the UK and pleaded with the powers that be to understand and African need for asylum when they flee the animosity dished on them by their brutal leaders like Robert Mugabe who is no longer a hero or exemplary statesman at all.
Referring to Amdani’s recent bruises with immigration, Regis said when he heard Amdani had been sent to a detention camp near n airport (where he had once been detained before), he had never imagined he would see him again. He then thanked all the individuals who worked hard for Amdani’s release. He also thanked organizations like Refuge Forum, No Border, Indy media, etc for all their support not only to Amdani but to Nottingham Zimbabwe Community Network as well. He did special mention of Claire, Bill, Stuart and a few others for their relentless support for the organization. He also thanked all those present for supporting the Film night event and then introduced Innocent Chirawu as the NZCN P.R.O and welcomed him to the platform.
As the second speaker after Regis, Innocent thanked Regis for introducing him and gave his own brief profile saying he was a Zimbabwean who had his teens during the time of the setting of the film Flame. He said he saw and experienced the hard times of the pre-Independent Zimbabwe. He could recall he time when in 1974, they were driven into open fenced areas called ‘protected villages’ where they were heaped (on 15sq yards per household) together with their possessions except for their cattle and goats to start a new life of living under monitored conditions and curfew (6pm to 6am) – shut in the fence.
Innocent went on to say that what they watched in the film ‘Flame’ was just a tip of the iceberg. He narrated how Zimbabwe (Rhodesia at that time) had an education system of dual planning whereby the ‘white’ child got 6 pounds per head per year, a black child got only 1 pound. He said in short the system was similar to apartheid which we probably all know about. The education system, he said, had bottle- neck structure whereby only 12% of the black African children were expected to proceed to secondary education. The rest were meant to provide cheap labour with only an enough education make them serve their white masters, for example, as spanner boys, housemaids or gardeners, etc.
However, he said, at independence in 1980 ONE pound was equivalent to ONE Zimbabwean Dollar, but at the moment ONE pound was equivalent to over 20 Billion Zim dollars (as I write this story it’s now pegged at 35 Billion dollars) – making Zimbabwe to be the only country in the world where one is a starving billionaire. He then said that there was no wonder why one old woman from a Zimbabwe rural area was quoted as saying that she never minded the
The opposition leader returning the country to whites since, her children could get jobs when they were under white minority rule unlike today. Innocent went on to explain how people like his own mother had at one point got imprisoned/detained for cooking for and feeding the ‘freedom fighters’ but was never rewarded even a dime by Mugabe and his greedy and selfish cronies who gobbled the lion’s share of the independence cake. Innocent went on to explain how villagers had been abused and forced to slaughter even their last chicken or goat in the pen.
He explained how unfortunate it was that some of the freedom fighters had criminal backgrounds and had fled from arrests for their murder cases and so on – and were later elevated by Mugabe to powerful positions in society making them feel forever indebted to Mugabe. Hence, the rumour that Mugabe had conceded defeat after March 29 but his service chiefs had forced him to stay on. Most of these are a new breed of black-skinned white Rhodesians who are bent on shedding blood in support of Mugabe each time there is an election. Mugabe’s wife, Grace’s words recently that Mugabe would never handover power to Tsvangirai but one of his cronies (ZANU PF) and the fact that Mugabe in all his campaigns is singing the same chorus that he would never allow the power of the pen to be mightier than the sword and that he got the country through the gun and would not allow it to go by a stroke of a pen – suggests a very ugly scenario of unrest, civil war etc. Innocent explained how he had taught as a secondary teacher in Zimbabwe for 11 years; noticed teachers were among the least paid and most hated professionals by the Mugabe regime and joined the media as a subeditor for an independent daily tabloid not knowing that he was jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
The Protest March
Commenting on the Protest march scheduled for June 27, Innocent said that the sole purpose of this demonstration is to register our concern regarding the issue of forced removal or deportation of Zimbabweans regardless of their immigration status, whatever, the outcome of the June 27 elections in Zimbabwe. Even though our life conditions as failed asylum seekers are a struggle - travelling far to sign regularly whilst not allowed to work and with no free access to the health delivery system is better compared to early removal to Zimbabwe. It is, therefore, our plea that Britain may employ a human face to the rehabilitation issue since most of us are casualties of Mugabe’s 28 years regime - left with no homes, no jobs, and no hope. He said Mugabe was behaving like a certain lion, called Maswera sei (how was your day) which once strayed from a game and killed lots of villagers in an area called Kariba in Zimbabwe. Innocent said when he came to UK in December 2001, he hid himself in a toilet at his cousins’ house where he lived when he heard a helicopter hovering above the house and when through the window he saw a police man patrolling the area with a huge Alsatian dog, thinking that Mugabe had sent his intelligence to pick him up, since he had come just come from working from a tabloid whose offices and printing presses Mugabe had bombed. We believe organizations such as Red Cross International, International Organization for Migration, No Borders, and others do back our cause as well. On that note it is our humble request on humanitarian ground that we may be given the choice to decide to settle and integrate in the UK or opt for a more realistic Voluntary Return package of not less than 15000 pounds as opposed to the present 3000 pounds. The thought of sudden return to the hell which Zimbabwe has been reduced to (a pariah state - no need to elaborate), is more than a nightmare. Mercy is what we are begging for so that we may not fulfill the adage, ‘from the frying pan into the fire’. Thank you.
Amdani Juma said that he really felt sorry for his fellow Africans, Zimbabweans because of what is happening in their country. But then, he said, such was a typical problem in Africa whereby democracy was a casualty.
He then gave an account of his stay in various detention camps and the ordeals he had experienced with the immigration. He then pointed out that Zimbabweans in UK should not be afraid of Mugabe but the home office. He said the home office had too many powers: to restrain, to detain and to deport. He stressed the fact that he came to UK for safety and to serve fellow human beings, irrespective of colour or borders. He viewed UK citizens as fellow human beings, and had put aside his engineering degrees to voluntarily work as a support worker. He said he was developing his potential in that area, contributing tax in the UK.
Amdani then pleaded with the nationals to understand refugees/asylum seekers as fellow humans who need to be respected just like them and people who have rights to be respected too.
JOKE of THE DAY
An own goal for Zanu PF
When MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai took his campaign to one of Zimbabwe’s remotest rural areas, an old woman came close to him, looked at him squarely in the face and said, "Tell me are you really Morgan?"
Morgan replied, "Yes, I am Morgan"
Then she said, "I am happy to see you because all along I thought you were a white man. Mugabe told us you are a white man".
- Regis Manyanya