What a success!!  8 December 2012 will go down in history books as the date that ROHR Zimbabwe was reborn. Having fought off serious efforts to hijack and destroy the organisation, ROHR Zimbabwe rose from the ashes to hold its first ever National Conference hosted at Birmingham in the United Kingdom. A colourful conference room and cheery faces brightened a brilliant day. The event organisers’ diligent efforts were everywhere seen in the meticulous way in which the conference room and the program were organised.  With the theme: Human Rights: Empowering the Displaced and Dispossessed to Stop the Suffering, ROHR Zimbabwe was at its zenith once again!

Thandiwe Gwarumba Chairperson of Birmingham branch was there to give a warm welcome to the delegates and invited guests from all walks of life who thronged the venue to attend the much awaited National Conference. National Organising Secretary, Chamunorwa Chisuko, who was the Master of Ceremonies, took centre stage to introduce delegates, guests and visitors alike. Over 70 delegates attended from Slough, Cambridge, London, Southampton, Bournemouth, Milton Keynes, Manchester, Nottingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Newcastle, Leicester, Birmingham.

After the welcome speech by the host chairperson, Lizzy Bell of Birch Charity was the first to take the floor. She spoke on the role of the Birch Charity: ‘Looking after the Homeless Asylum Seeker’, which aptly linked this to the conference theme concerning displaced and dispossessed people.  Jessica from Near Neighbours was second to speak and her speech centred on the Near Neighbours’ role of bringing people together.

Fungayi Mabhunu, Chair of ROHR Central London Branch and management team member the Zimbabwe Vigil gave a comprehensive speech on what the Vigil stands for. He also told the conference that ROHR Zimbabwe was formed out of the need to create a Vigil presence in Zimbabwe and warned people against being hoodwinked by enemies of the struggle bent on destroying ROHR. Those who belonged to the imposter group would not receive any support from the Zimbabwe Vigil, he warned.

Nicholas Ncube, Arnold Magwanyata and David Kadzutu spoke on behalf of Zimbabwe We Can raising awareness on their values and objectives and urging the Zimbabwean community to unite for genuine change.  Their message was well received by those present.

Also present was Peter Nkomo, former treasurer of ROHR Zimbabwe in the previous UK committee. He spoke in glowing terms of Mr Ephraim Tapa’s leadership and challenged the conference to emulate him by taking ROHR to another level. He ended by declaring his loyalty to Mr Tapa’s leadership and giving his commitment to ROHR. Mr. Parariwa, the first Chairperson of ROHR Birmingham branch was also in attendance. He could only marvel at what ROHR had become and he summed this up by stating that ‘ROHR has never been stronger, I will remain part of the family and do all I can to help’.

When the President and Founder of ROHR Zimbabwe Mr. Ephraim Tapa eventually took the stage, the conference was ready to roll. In a wide ranging and powerful speech that touched on the origins  of ROHR, achievements to date, the state of  affairs and the vision ahead, he declared that ROHR Zimbabwe was the voice of the voiceless and that it must rise up to the challenge of going forward. He was scathing in his dismissal of the imposter ‘ROHR Zim’ and urged all present to remain vigilant.  He emphasized on the need to feel for the displaced and dispossessed and gave a Zimbabwean scenario in which a woman and her family had their houses razed down in a politically motivated arson attack leaving them destitute. The President spoke of the scourge of corruption that continues  to ravage Zimbabwe, how the gap between the rich and poor continued to widen, how the political elite continued to plunder the resources of the country while the majority of Zimbabweans suffer. He said it was a scandal that Zimbabweans were dying of water borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea in this day and age. Mr Tapa lamented that the much talked about reforms placed at the heart of the Inclusive Government had failed to materialise and that everything pointed to a bloodier Zimbabwe election come 2013.  The president ended by declaring that the suffering in Zimbabwe must stop and that we all had to take responsibility.

Conference delegates responded to Mr Tapa’s address with gusto and passion. Speaker after speaker echoed the President’s rallying call for action. New ideas were put on the table for the new Executive to further explore and leadership was encouraged to cultivate a closer relationship with the host government and other organisations to be in a position to influence policy on Zimbabwe. Delegates were unanimous in their resolve to work for the good of their country and to strengthen ROHR Zimbabwe.

Later, a petition to the UK Border Agency concerning the treatment for asylum seekers and pleading with the UK government to defer forced deportations to Zimbabwe until 6 months after the planned 2013 election was agreed and signed.

The President then took the opportunity to thank the outgoing Interim UK executive for their fantastic achievements during their term in office. He greatly commended their work as a team and wished the incoming executive well.

Following debate and in show of confidence in the President’s leadership, Conference unanimously resolved that Mr Tapa, the vision holder, be the chairperson of the UK Chapter to ensure continued progress and stability in the organisation.

Other salient resolutions for 2013 going forward included:

  • Appreciation for Birmingham branch as led by its Chairperson, Thandiwe Gwarumba, for the excellent show and hard work they put in hosting the historic conference
  • ROHR Zimbabwe to continue working towards ensuring growth and stability of the organisation whilst it  remain vigilant against  its detractors who will no doubt continue to mislead members and the public, and try every trick in the book to lie, steal and destroy.
  • To provide all the necessary support and empower only genuine members of ROHR Zimbabwe while exposing the imposters.
  • ROHR to develop welfare schemes and income generating projects for the benefit of its members who fall on hard times.
  • The UK Chapter to provide the necessary support to ensure programmes in both Zimbabwe and South Africa Chapters are escalated.
  • To increase work on the defence and advocacy of human rights in Zimbabwe and South Africa given Zimbabwe’s planned 2013 election and the gross abuse and suffering of sections of the Zimbabwe exiled community in South Africa.
  • To open offices in the UK to support the UK Chapter’s growth agenda, improve service delivery to the membership and increase networking with other stakeholders.
  • To empower human rights activists and develop a committed, loyal leadership armed with the requisite skills and knowledge through educational workshops and training
  • To help create a global human rights movement though the increased internationalisation of ROHR Zimbabwe for the furtherance of Peace, Justice and Freedom

With Mr Dakarai Mutisi presiding over the election, the new ROHR UK National Executive was elected as follows: Chairperson: Mr. Ephraim Tapa Vice Chairperson: Thandiwe Gwarumba Secretary: Tapiwa Merrymore Semwayo Vice Secretary: Wellington Muringai Organizing Secretary: Chamunorwa Chisuko Vice Organizing Secretary: Cephas Musvusva Treasurer: Fungayi Mabhunu Vice Treasurer: Jonathan Kariwoh Co-ordinators: Collin Chitekwe and Jonathan Kariwoh Secretary for Fundraising & Projects: Meryline Turdor Fundraising Members: Patricia Masamba, Mary Ndoro, Christopher Kamuzonde, Pedzisai James and Taylor Madondo; Information and Publicity Secretary: Barney Kavai Vice Info and Publicity: Nobuhle Amanda Mazula Co-ordinator: Tawanda Desmond Matemura

In addressing the new team the President put emphasis on loyalty to the organisation, team coordination and commitment to the cause.

A delicious lunch of traditional food was served to the guests and the ladies’ fashion show complemented the lunch as ladies showed off their beautiful African outfits.

Throughout the conference, people showed their zeal to work towards progress and for the good of ROHR Zimbabwe and intended beneficiaries.

Delegates congratulated the President and the host branch for a great conference. It is heartening that warm congratulatory messages and comments are still pouring in from all quarters at the time of writing.

Come 2013, Come on ROHR Zimbabwe