Daniel Nelson

November has been a memorable month for many Zimbabweans – but for journalist Thelma Chikwana it’s been doubly dramatic.

OneWorld was involved in her drama because she had filed stories from Zimbabwe for the OneWorld Features project, which has successfully sought to increase and improve coverage of Africa, Asia and Latin America in Swedish newspapers, magazines and online operations.

A year ago she flew to Sweden to discuss coverage with editors there. A dedicated and outspoken journalist, she was hassled at Harare airport, where her laptop and camera were confiscated, “probably because I had been covering protests against [President Robert] Mugabe prior to my departure. My colleague with whom I had been working was almost beaten to death by security men the same day.”

While in Stockholm she learned that the authorities in Zimbabwe were harassing her mother.

She decided it was unsafe to return, so applied for asylum. The Swedes sent her to France, because the French embassy in Zimbabwe had handled her Swedish visa application.

She spoke no French, had no links with the country and French immigration and police treated her with hostility. But with a little help and support from OneWorld, SIDA (the Swedish aid organisation) and a sympathetic French social worker and doctor, her asylum application gradually proceeded. On 14 November it was approved.

Commenting on Mugabe's departure, she said: "Like most Zimbabweans, I'm excited about the removal of Robert Mugabe, a man who clung on to power for 37 years, reducing the jewel of Africa once regarded as a breadbasket to a basket case. 

"But I don't think that it would be wise to celebrate so much because I don't trust the institution that [new President Emmerson] Mnangagwa represents (ZANU PF). This is the same institution that presided over the destruction of the country's economy through poor policies and bad governance. Mnangagwa has also been fingered in several human rights abuses like the Gukurahundi genocide which claimed the lives of 20,000 people and the 2008 politically-motivated killings which saw at least 200 MDC supporters lose their lives. 

"I want to believe that this will be his Damascene moment and he will use this opportunity to right the wrongs of the past by putting in place programmes and policies which foster a spirit of nationalism and inclusivity where people are not judged by the colour of their skin or their tribe.

"I hope that he will also deal decisively with corruption and come up with policies which will attract investors and ease doing business in Zimbabwe."

Thelma Chikwanha

Thelma Chikwanha

Image by Thelma Chikwanha's website

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