Sunday, 10 October 2010

Of Firing Squads, Morons and Patriots










The above title partly comes from a phrase in a comment someone made on a friend's Facebook post about Gamuchirai Nhengu, the X Factor contestant everyone in the UK is buzzing about since she failed to make the final 12 or 16 as it were, last Saturday. The public mood has gone from sympathy to outrage when it was discovered that her family visa had been judged out of time by UKBA (UK Border Agency) and her mother was found to have wrongly claimed working tax and child credits and so because their application had been denied they are now subject to an administrative removal (not deportation) and will have to go back to Zimbabwe for a year before re-applying. Within a heartbeat the tabloid press had labelled the mother a 'benefits cheat' and 'thief' while a trail of xenophobic and racist comments were left on newspaper comment boards, Twitter and Facebook - there's even a Deport the Gamu Family page to rival the Gamu Should Have Got Through fan page that has now become the playground of xenophobes and vile racists. 

If anyone needed to know just how racist and moronic some members of the British public can be, this case is a perfect example but at the same if anyone needed to know just how generous and sympathetic the British public can be then this case is also a perfect example as the pictures of crowds bearing gifts pictured outside the Nhengu's family home show. The response of Zimbabweans has been nothing but sympathy and support, lobbyist groups and (disappointingly) a few the online press are doing their best to protest UKBA's decision. Zimbabweans in the diaspora and at home have stood in solidarity with the family, all until this morning that is. 


The News of the World published an exclusive interview with Gamu in which she pleaded for a chance to stay in the UK, claiming that if she was sent back she'd face Mugabe's 'firing squad.' Her words were: “It’s like I’m being sent home to a firing squad and they’re putting me in front of it, They will punish us if we go back. Our lives are in danger.” 

Firing squad? Punish? Danger? *Rolling eyes double time* Her lawyers may have advised this rather colourful response, the News of the World may have gotten a little creative with her words or Gamu may be so desperate she will say whatever she can to prevent her family's impending removal. Whatever it is, it's untrue. Zimbabwe may be a lot of things, but a hell hole of punishment it is not, neither do we have firing squads for people, least of all wannabe pop stars. There are people out there who genuinely face persecution if they return to the country, but Gamu is not one of them and if in reaction to this story one or two sick n depraved alleged  agents of the regime threaten her, it's to scare her but I honestly don't know how real that threat would be. So many Zimbabweans have milked the political unrest in the country to acquire a right of stay all over the world and these people are no different to Gamu because they want the opportunity to make a better life for themselves. While I completely understand the desire for the right to pursue prosperity and happiness, that desire does not mean pursuit by any means necessary and does not justify falsely maligning the already battered image of your country.

Right now Zimbabwe is undergoing transition, life is so much better there than it was three years ago when price controls wrecked the economy or ten years ago when war vets took over the farms. True, some political activists, writers, artists and singers are in prison or have been incarcerated, but others live in the country and carry out their political works without fear of persecution so where does a rising pop star all the way in Scotland get off making claims like that? The myth that 'Mugabe is the bogeyman and his henchmen are coming to get ya' shows just how low people's sense of patriotism that they'll sell out their country for South African, British, Canadian or American citizenship. Worst of it all is that it's to the detriment of genuine asylum seekers who face greater risk of deportation when stories like these get called out. Instead of going the sensationalist route, Gamu might have used this as a chance to highlight the claims of those who face real danger on the basis of their political or religious (Rastafarians) beliefs. 

She is young, but she is not stupid, neither are her lawyers and one hopes they start giving her the right advice before this gets any more sensational. She's already made a mistake of speaking to News of the World and has been a little too creative with her story. Why the heck did she sell her story to News of The World when it belongs to the same tabloid group that branded her mother a cheat and a thief when the benefits story broke on Tuesday. For the whole week, The Sun has been fanning the flames of xenophobic and racist angst against this family and the she goes and tells The freaking News of the World! She'd rather have kept her mouth shut and waited till better newspapers or TV channels came along and made sure not to divide the support of Zimbabweans - judging by the Facebook, Twitter and Zim news comments I've read the majority of people express their sympathy with her situation but are very pissed off with her for making such exaggerated claims, and rightly so. There are those who claim she's just a kid and she doesn't know any better, but with lawyers on your side, the folly of youth can never be the disguise for stupidity. This group argues that no one really knows how this story transpired and who said what exactly - fair enough, I hear you. However, there is a minority who seem to think it's okay because 'everybody does it.' That's just daft, you cannot legitimize lying just because others are doing it, especially now when things in Zimbabwe are so much better, very far from perfect, but a lot better both politically and economically. Maybe Gamu should go back home for a year to face the imaginary 'firing squad' so she can re-discover her roots and find just how much people are willing to help her, as one hip hop producer based in Harare suggested.

As for the judicial review, I really believe the family has a strong case, firing squads and bogey men nothwithstanding and taking into account: Inland Revenue's screwup in granting the mother credits, supporting case law concerning tax credits, EU Human Rights, Article 8 provisions on the right to a family life and supporting case law. Also, UKBA and X Factor screwed up by playing this out in public and if I was Gamu's mother I'd be hunting down Courtenay Griffiths to get him to take my case pro bono. Never mind that he's a criminal lawyer, I'm sure he, like many immigration lawyers, would relish the opportunity to stick it to UKBA and the Cowell pantomime.



10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen sister! WTF is she on about, Mugabe doesn't care about a kid on a talent show. She's got a great voice, very sad story - heard the brothers were being bullied and had to be pulled out of school. But I think she sounds crazy, she acts like Zimbabwe is a shitty place of torture. She needs to come home!

ST

sirnige.com said...

THANK YOU!Thank you for writing this and now I will share this scribe with my people - I concur with your assessment although I must add that I don't know much about the legal aspect of this case. What I know about the visas she was on, is that she couldn't claim benefits at all. We are living in interesting times I guess....

Ziggy said...

Hi

Don't you think part of this has to do with age? 18 yr olds think they know everything, but they say some stupid things. The idea she has of Zimbabwe is what she sees in the British news, all the bad stuff. Can you blame her? I am Ethiopian and had issues with saying that when I was younger because I was seen as a starving refugee. The stigma becomes reality and you think of your homeland in a negative way. I'm glad I had my cousins to steer me the right way otherwise I'd be a sefl-hating African wannabe Brit.

My Bestfriend's Little Sister(MBLS) said...

Finally, someone adds some sanity to this mess!

Good job, I couldn't have said it better myself!

Anonymous said...

This kid has probably only been to Zimbabwe once or twice since she left, she has no idea what it's like there. I can't really blame her but I agree that kids say stupid things, but why did her mother put her in front of the media firing squad? Mwana zvake asi Mai Gamu apa makatadza kuraira mwana.

KonWomyn said...

Hey STee!

True, true it's a bit crazy. All the more reason to wonder where her opinion of Zimbabwe comes from as Ziggy alluded to.

SirNige

Thank you for commenting. Concerning the issue of tax credits, have a look at this piece on the UK Human Rights Blog and this legal opinion that appeared in New Zimbabwe last week. Both cite similar cases where visa extensions were denied to a Nigerian immigrant who innocently received tax credits and the courts ruled in the applicant's favour.

Thanks for circulating this.

KonWomyn said...

Ziggy

Welcome to the blog. Finally! In part yes, these are the words of an 18 year old that's why I won't call her a barefaced liar. But she's an 18 year old Zimbabwean and because of that she's better placed to know what the situation in her own country is like as compared to an 18 year old Ethiopian who reads about Zimbabwe in the news.

IMO she's pandering to the dominant perception of Zimbabwe by the Plantation. She's playing for sympathy and if any Zim CIO agents threaten her now the headlines will be screaming bloody murder and she'll use that to beef up her claim.

However I don't know whether they anticipated a backlash from the Zimbabwean community or if that even mattered at all. That's the thing that gets me - you use Zimbabwe for your own ends yet people were willing to support you all the way.

Interestingly enough this story is doing the rounds in the Zim press and both journalists and readers are giving their opinions but, The Daily Mail story didn't attract a huge number of comments, just 28. Thankfully it didn't trend on Twitter - the only day Gamu didn't trend was Sunday. I checked the NOTW and there were 32 comments most of them sympathetic but I don't think the story was as big as NOTW had expected - or maybe X Factor Live Week was more important. Either way I think it's reached a plateau with the public, but every other celeb wants to get on the Gamu appeal bandwagon.

KonWomyn said...

My Best Friend's Little Sister

Hello! I like your name, it's pretty cool. Thanks for reading and commenting. I can't understand people who think as Zimbabweans we should stand in solidarity with her because she's a child. Puhleaaze! I may support her right to stay, but not this.

Anon

Welcome! Thanks for commenting. Please identify yourself so we know who you are.

Like Ziggy you think these are childish utterances, but they're not. 18 is quite old enough to have an opinion on the world and to make choices on how you deal with things.

She also has lawyers and a mother to guide her - she could have chosen not to talk about her fears of Zimbabwe and just shed bucket loads about X Factor and UKBA, but she didn't. This was quite a careless thing to do bec of the ramifications it has had and it also reflects badly on her mother's guidance as y'say.

...peace

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the story on New Zimbabwe? It's so harsh!

My name is Saru by the way. I take your point that she is an adult and has lawyers to guide her, but I can't help but feel sorry for her. You should see the pictures of her family's rural home maybe that's why she said that. She doesn't want to go back to that life.

KonWomyn said...

Saru

Yes I saw it, I thought it was rather distasteful. I've never held New Zim up to a high standard of journalistic integrity but this is a new low.

Funny that the pictures the have of Jonasi are the same ones the UK tabloid press has been flogging around since the story of her grandparents weeks ago. If their reporters really went, where are their own pics? Even ones taken on a phone?

I don't buy it.

Listen to her accent - a kid from kumusha doesn't speak like that, all Americanized. Most of the kids who speak like that are from Harare.

Her father was a lawyer and the man her mother met after that worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, you telling me Gamu was living kumusha in Jonasi walking 5km to school everyday? Puhleeeze! Come again.