On 18th March 2017 from 11.30 am to 1.30 pm, a powerful group of human rights defenders of the Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe (ROHRZ), Reading branch, descended on Broad Street in Reading town centre. The group was energetically pursuing the detoxification of deteriorating human rights in Zimbabwe.

ROHR Reading branch has always engaged with their community in their efforts to educate and empower Zimbabweans in the diaspora to stand together and demand that their human rights issues be addressed. On this particular day, it was overwhelming to experience a much broader cultural base interested to hear about the Zimbabwe situation. People from different walks of life from the Reading community showed great interest in the work and agenda being pursued by ROHRZ Reading members. At one point human traffic came to standstill as many wanted to hear and share the group’s intentions. The group drew great attention from the public through singing melodious solidarity songs, loud drum beats, displaying large printed messages on placards and banners as well as dressing in full ROHR regalia. They also handed out pamphlets explaining the current sorry state of affairs of the dictator’s regime and his desperate clinging to power at 93 years old.

After the outreach awareness programme, members went on to hold their monthly general members’ meeting at the Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC) from 2pm to 5pm. They started with a prayer led by Cde Sihle Sibanda. The Chairperson Nicodimus Muganhu thanked everyone for attending the planned events and outlined the day’s agenda. In his address to members, he identified the Mugabe regime as ‘corrupt and dictatorial and the two words went hand in hand like Siamese twins in how he badly manages the government and country at large’. He also mentioned ‘the state’s capture of institutions by his greedy wife Grace Mugabe and also by his cronies which has resulted in the country grinding to a halt’. Cde Charles Mararirakwenda, as the designated representative to stimulate activity from the Zimbabwean end, gave his feedback on the Mashonaland East twin branch. He said it was still work in progress. Cde Deborah Harry gave out an emotional solidarity speech on unity for all Zimbabweans. She encouraged members to persuade people back in Zimbabwe to register to vote for 2018 elections if change is to come.

Members also discussed the Zimbabwe Peace Actors Platform (ZIMPAP). It is a ROHRZ initiative aimed at bringing all peace actors together and develop civilian peace keepers to be deployed across the country with a view to mitigate political violence, record violence incidences and intervene where appropriate to build peace. Members felt the project was very necessary as the 2018 elections were looming.

Replying to lobbying letters from MPs, welfare funding for members, bag packing and car boot sales to fundraise forthcoming national events were some the matters discussed at great length. It was also pleasing for the members to receive a thank you letter from Faith Christian Group which recently received donations for its food bank from the branch.

The meeting ended with birthday anniversary celebrations for Cdes Nicodimus Muganhu and Charles Mararirakwenda. A vote of thanks was given to Cdes Oripah and Shylette who brought in delicious food for the members to enjoy. There being no other business, the meeting was closed and members departed to their various destinations

Present were: Nicodimus Muganhu, Sihle Sibanda, Deborah Harry, Shylette Chipangura, Charles Mararirakwenda, Oripah Chiwona and Joshua Kahari

Joshua Kahari (ROHR Reading Branch Information and Publicity Officer & ROHR deputy National Publicity and Advocacy officer)