Zim-Unite formed in the UK to “shape destinies”

A new non-partisan group was launched here recently to give Zimbabweans in the UK the opportunity to “shape” their destinies.

Jeff Sango addresses the meeting
Jeff Sango addresses the meeting

Zim-Unite was the brain child of Jeff Sango, a former insurance salesman who now works at Citizens UK, a civic organisation which gives a voice to marginalised communities and has campaigned for a living wage and an end to child detention in the country.

His dream is to see Zimbabweans putting aside their political, tribal and cultural differences and uniting to improve the lives of their compatriots in the UK and at home.

Citizens UK hosts a Diaspora Assembly where members from immigrant groups have the chance to make their voices heard on issues which affect them, such as unemployment and immigration issues.

Many other diasporan communities in Britain have come together under the umbrella of Citizens UK to make their voices heard on issues affecting immigrant communities. This is the first year a Zimbabwean group has joined them. More than 50 Zimbabweans from around the country attended the first Zim-Unite meeting last Saturday, before gathering with other migrant communities at the Diaspora Assembly.

Floyd Mutambiranwa, who co-chaired the meeting, said: “As Zimbabweans living in the UK, there are certain things that affect us which we need to speak up about. We need to come together to speak about these issues as a group of people and not as individuals. There is a lot of unemployment, this affects migrant communities more harshly.”

There are an estimated 200,000 Zimbabweans living in the UK. Zim-Unite panel members spoke about their ambitious vision for the community, sharing success stories about the work they have already done.

The group has plans for a Buy Zimbabwe campaign to encourage the community to support Zimbabwean-run businesses. Part of this is an ambition to see Air Zimbabwe shares bought by the diaspora when the company goes part-public next year.

David Mwengwa, Air Zimbabwe general manager for Europe, spoke at the meeting.

“We have over 200,000 Zimbabweans with status in this country, if half of these people travelled on Air Zimbabwe, we would be talking differently about the contribution of the airline to the Zimbabwean community,” he said.

“Air Zimbabwe is looking for partners and the government position is that 60 per cent of the share-hold will go to private institutions. Of this 60 per cent, 20 per cent should be in the hands of Zimbabweans.

“London contributes 50 per cent of the airline’s revenues. That is a huge amount for an airline that has been supporting the Zimbabwean economy for some time. We want to say to Zimbabweans in the UK, unite and buy Air Zimbabwe.”

Sango added: “Air Zimbabwe is our airline, we feel proud to travel on it. We want people in the diaspora to buy shares in Air Zimbabwe because we want to own it.

“We are a launching a Buy Zimbabwe campaign. There are Zimbabwean shop keepers and motor mechanics in this country, people with skills we should be supporting. We are starting a Zimbabwean services directory which will be available to all Zimbabweans. I want to hear about people who have businesses or special skills so we can include them in the database.”

Zim-Unite members also spoke about the work they were already doing in the community.

Patricia Chinyoka, a Zimbabwean who works with London Citizens, told the meetings how she met with MPs to get improvements to customer service at the immigration centres in the capital.

She said: “I want to see my fellow Zimbabweans treated with respect and dignity.” Thanks to her tireless lobbying and hard work with the UK Border Agency, those reporting now have water to drink, a welcome centre and access to umbrellas if they have to queue in the rain.

Pastor Owen Moyo spoke about work he was doing with youths in his community, young people driven to thieving and growing drugs rather than trying to get a job because it seems an easier way of life.

“I realised there are many problems affecting our youth. I look at them and see a dying generation.”

Others spoke about job opportunities for Zimbabweans, working at the London Olympics. Sango said: “There are opportunities out there, but you will never know about them unless you talk to other Zimbabweans.”

Sango said the Zimbabwean community faces many problems, but “until we realise that we need to come together and stand strong as a community, we will continue moaning. There are so many people crying in this country, you need to wail to be heard. It’s about time, we came together and forgot about what political party we support or other differences we might have, we need to stand up and say, we are Zimbabweans.” – For more information email: [email protected]

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