Wednesday, 12 November 2008

April 9, ____.

Last night I dreamt Zimbabwe had turned into a barren wasteland.

There were no trees, no plants, no animals, no birds, no people.

The only things left were the wind and the dust.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

April 8, ____.

Ali says things would've been better for me if I’d stayed with my wife.

Ali doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

He's never been married and he's never had a girlfriend.

No. Things wouldn’t have been better for me if I'd stayed with my wife and daughter. Things would’ve got worse.

Monday, 27 August 2007

April 7, ____.

I wash my face in one of the public toilets where I also get my drinking water.

I found an empty three-litre plastic container in one of the bins on my street. The label on it said, “Robinsons Orange Fruit Squash.” I cleaned it out and now I use it to store my drinking water.

A few meters down the road, there’s a large corner-shop. For the first few days after I moved into this house, I used to go through the bins looking for something to eat. Now the Asian man who owns the shop lets me have a loaf of bread and a few other things every evening.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

April 6, ____.

Last night I moved into a derelict house in an estate about half an hour’s walk from the city centre.

All the windows of the house, except for the ones in the bedrooms upstairs, are boarded up. The house has no heat, electricity or running water.

I couldn’t sleep.

The house was so cold I had to keep pacing up and down to try and keep warm.

This afternoon, some sun came in through the bedroom windows and I wrapped myself up in some blankets and I managed to get a few hours’ sleep.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

April 5, ____.

Ali was in my room again this afternoon.

He was talking about how he missed Pakistan, about the trouble there and about how he hoped he’d be able to go back one day and carry on from where he had left off.

He says he’d had big dreams and they’d all revolved around Kalusha, the village where he grew up.

“I never imagined I’d spend this long away from home. I never imagined I’d leave Kalusha,” he said.

He’s been in the U.K. for about five years now.

“My cousins helped me flee Pakistan,” he said. “They planned everything, the passports, the exit routes, the people who’d guide me through the routes, and they paid for everything.

“When I got here, they explained about the right of asylum and about why and how I should go about submitting an application for political asylum. They even found a Pakistani solicitor to handle the application for me. The solicitor was confident we‘d win the case.”

But the application was rejected as were the subsequent appeals he made.

“For some reason, the first time I submitted my application, I thought I’d get a decision from the Home Office quickly. I thought the whole process would be over in less than a month. It must have been wishful thinking on my part because from the time I submitted my claim to the time I was told I’d exhausted all my appeal rights, I spent about four years, four years that were filled with anxiety, fear, worry, hair pulling and nail biting.”

A year after his initial claim had been rejected, Ali submitted a fresh claim and it was accepted.

“I’m not sure what’s going to happen next. I keep forgetting to ask my solicitor to explain what’s going to happen next. But what I think it means is that I’m at the beginning of the process again.

“Maybe the Home Office is going to interview me all over again or maybe it will make a decision based solely on the evidence I submitted for my fresh claim, I don’t know.”

I made him another cup of tea.

“You should have stayed with your wife and daughter,” he said. “Life would have been easier for you if you’d stayed with my wife and daughter.”

I’d told Ali a little about my family. He knew that when I came into the country, my wife and daughter were there with me. I’d told him that since arriving in the U.K., things had not worked out between my wife and me and I’d had to leave.

“You should have stayed with your wife and daughter,” he said.

“We have to go,” I told him. “I have an appointment with a solicitor at 2.30 pm. If we leave now, I’ll get there in time for the appointment.”

We walked into town together. Ali said he was going to the mosque and I went to see the solicitor to try and see if he could take up my case.

Friday, 24 August 2007

April 4, ____.

For the past three weeks, I’ve been knocking on the door of every immigration solicitor in town.

I’d explain to the secretaries that I’d heard about the solicitors from other asylum seekers they’d represented -- I couldn’t call on the phone or write a letter because I was broke so I thought I’d call in person and ask if it would be possible for me to see a solicitor with regards to my asylum application.

One or two solicitors saw me on the same day. With most, I’d make an appointment to come back another day.

A lot of the solicitors said they were no longer taking on cases funded by legal aid. If they were going to represent me, I’d have to pay. I wasn’t working. I had no source of income. I couldn’t think of anyone who’d be willing to pay the legal fees on my behalf.

I’d explain my situation to those who still accepted legal aid. I’d ask if they could help me file an appeal. They’d ask a few questions, flick through my papers and tell me, “No. You’ve exhausted all your appeal rights. There’s nothing I can do. There’s really nothing anyone can do for you.”

But I kept on knocking on more doors and I made more appointments to see solicitors even though the response was almost always the same, “No… there’s nothing we can do.”

Thursday, 23 August 2007

April 3, ____.

Father says I should have seen the signs when strangers started coming up to me asking questions about what I was writing. He says I should have been careful when they asked if I was interested in politics and if I was interested in running for parliament.

Instead, I told them, yes, I was interested in politics. Wasn’t everyone? Isn’t that what we’re all supposed to do? Wasn’t something like making a cup of tea in the morning a political act, depending on who is doing it and why they’re doing it? Aren’t we all supposed to take an active interest in what happens around us and in how things are going at home, at school, in church, in the communities we live in, in the country, in the world…?

No. I had no plans for running for parliament. But, yes, I was worried if I’d be able to get a job after college. I was worried about how my parents’ wages seemed to be buying less and less each month. I was worried about how Chitungwiza had become infested with rats. I was worried about how raw sewage was always spilling out onto the streets and about how, when children where playing, they would splash through the sewage to retrieve their footballs. I was worried that the death penalty was still on the statute books. I was worried about how resources that were meant to benefit local communities were being diverted and were being used to benefit local party officials. I was worried about how national resources were being plundered. And I was worried about how corrupt government officials seemed to be above the law, about how they seemed to be the law and could do what they wanted, when they wanted, how they wanted and nothing happened to them.

Father says I should have seen the signs when after one article in which I talked about these things and another heated discussion with another set of strangers, I was withdrawn from teacher training college.

He says it was bad enough that I talked about these things.

He says it was worse that I wrote about them. He says when I felt the itch to write, I should have written bedtime stories for children.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

April 2, ____.

A man attacked me in the pub today. I’d gone there because Ali likes to play snooker on weekends. I don’t like snooker but I go to the pub with Ali because Ali is a good player and sometimes there’s lots of beer to be won. Ali doesn’t drink. When he wins, he passes the drinks on to me.

We were standing by the edge of the snooker table, and I was telling Ali about the trouble I was having finding a solicitor to take up my case.

A man on the other side of the table interjected, “We don’t want people like you here. You come into our country, you steal our benefits and you jump the housing queue. People are homeless because of the likes of you. ”

I told him I wasn’t on any housing list and that I was also going to be homeless very soon.

“Why don’t you go out there and get jobs and earn your own money and pay your way like the rest of us?” a second man asked.

I tried to explain that the government doesn’t allow asylum seekers to work.

“It’s because of people like you that decent British people can’t get jobs,” a third man said.

“Go back to your own bloody countries,” another man said.

“I think we should leave,” I said to Ali.

But before we could go, one of the men grabbed me by the collar and head-butted me. I tripped and fell, and the man kicked me while I was lying on the floor. I couldn’t do anything except coil up and try to protect my face.

It was only when the bartender and another man intervened, that I was able to get off the floor.

They asked me if I was alright and I said I was fine. They asked me if I wanted them to call the police, but I said no.

What good would the police do? How would they help?

Ali had disappeared as soon as the man started attacking me. He didn’t want to be there when the police arrived. Two of his friends had been stopped by the police last week and they hadn’t been heard from since. Ali is convinced they’re either in a detention centre somewhere here in the UK or they’ve already been sent back to Pakistan.

At the hostel, I washed my face, rinsed my mouth and went to bed.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

April 1, ____.

Father says the first mistake I made was I thought I could change things.

He says I should have concentrated on myself and on my family.

He says I should have left everything else alone.

Monday, 20 August 2007

March 31, ____.

I had a strange dream today.

I dreamt I was back in Zimbabwe but there wasn’t a building or a person in sight. All I could see were trees, trees and more trees.

I climbed up the tallest tree I could find. I climbed as high as I could go and I saw an army marching towards me.

The soldiers were dressed like ancient Roman soldiers. I couldn’t tell the black soldiers from the white soldiers. They all looked the same.

They slashed and razed everything to the ground.

After they’d passed, all that was left were charred tree stumps.

Friday, 17 August 2007

March 30, ____.

Today I called home and spoke to my friend Elizabeth. We talked for about an hour. We last spoke seven months ago.

She says Zimbabwe is still in turmoil. The two main political parties, the United Nationalist Alliance and the Congress for Democratic Reform, are still causing chaos. UNA is doing everything it can to stay in power and the CDR is doing all it can to get into power. In the process, people are being picked up by the police and the CIO. Some are being detained. Many are being tortured. Some are being killed. Others are vanishing.

Elizabeth says agents of the ruling party invaded her house again last week and clubbed her dogs to death. They told her they knew she was in contact with a number of agents of regime change. They wanted names, addresses and contact details.

When Elizabeth and her husband protested that they didn’t know anything, they were beaten up.

Pete had to get two stitches above his eye and six on his shin. A bone in Elizabeth’s right forearm was broken, and she had to wear a cast for a week. Elizabeth is a teacher. The money she paid for the cast was equivalent to five months’ wages. She had to borrow most of the money from friends and relatives. She says she does not know how or when she is going to pay them back.

Even though they doubt that his presence will make a real difference, Elizabeth and Pete have been hiring a security guard every night since this last attack.

Elizabeth says she can no longer bear the terror and trauma of being confronted and beaten up by armed teenagers. She says she is devastated by the lives that are being lost everyday across the country. She says she is devastated by her dogs’ deaths.

She wanted me to tell her something to cheer her up. She wanted me to give her some good news. She wanted me to tell her that this abuse she was living with, was going to stop. She wanted me to tell her that I was OK and that everything was going to be OK.

I couldn’t tell her that in this country, as at home, I was living in a constant state of terror. I couldn’t tell her that my asylum application had been rejected and that there was a possibility I could be deported any day from now.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

March 29, ____.

I have two carrier bags in which I keep the papers to do with my asylum case. One of the bags is from ASDA and the other bag is from TESCO.

The ASDA bag is translucent. I must've got it at around Christmas time. This would explain why the colour red dominates the bag. I can’t understand the translucence, though. Why did ASDA, or whoever orders and stocks these bags, what made them decide the bags should be see-through?

You can’t see through the TESCO bag. It’s predominantly white with a lot of blue and green and some red. The word TESCO is in red and each of the five letters has a blue squiggle under it.

The TESCO bag doesn‘t tell you to shop at TESCO. It tells you (in blue) that if you re-use the bag you can collect (in green) Green Club Card Points and that (in white writing in a green circle), you get one point per bag. There's also a red and white British Red Cross advert and a note (in blue) saying the bag is 100% biodegradable and that plastic bags can be dangerous and that to avoid the danger of suffocation, the bags should be kept away from babies and children.

Maybe I should get either another ASDA carrier bag or another TESCO bag and keep my papers in bags from the same shop. Maybe this is why things haven't been working for me, because I keep one set of papers in an ASDA bag and another set of papers in a TESCO bag.

Which mix of colours is luckier? Predominantly red or predominantly white with loads of blues and greens and some red?

I keep the carrier bags in a small red suitcase. The suitcase has got wheels and you can pull it along with you when you're on the move. I also keep, in the suitcase, a few items of clothing; a few used and unused notebooks; a photo of my daughter as a three-year-old in her grandpa’s gumboots; several pens and pencils; a number of novels I borrowed and forgot to return and an assortment of magazines I picked up in one waiting room or the other and which I meant to read but haven’t quite got round to reading because, at the moment, I have neither the desire nor the energy to read anything.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

March 28, ____.

I went to see my G.P. today.

I needed someone to talk to.

I couldn’t talk to any of my friends or relatives. In the past, each time I tried talking to them, all I managed to do was to cause them a lot of distress.

I showed Dr Croft the letter I'd received from the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal and I showed him the eviction notice.

“What are these?” he asked.

“They are letters,” I said. “This one’s from the AIT telling me my asylum application has been rejected. And this one’s from the Home Office telling me I have got to leave the hostel and return to my country of origin.”

“Which country are you from?”


“The SAS should go in there and blast Moyo," Dr Croft said. "That’s what I’d do if I were Prime Minster. I’d tell the army to go in there and take out the tyrant.”

My face and cheeks felt hot. I was itching all over.

Last week, the Ugandan-born Church of England Archbishop, David Bantariza had been in the news. He'd been saying the British army should invade Zimbabwe and remove President Moyo from office and a week before that, the Zimbabwean Roman Catholic Archbishop, Blessed Ndlovu had also been in the news and he'd been saying Britain and America should invade Zimbabwe and remove the President from office.

I could see burning houses. I could hear buses being riddled with bullets. I could smell burning cars and trucks. I could see streets littered with the dead bodies of innocent people.

“The reason why so many Muslims and black people are claiming asylum in this country is because we've got a generous welfare system," Dr Croft was saying. “The Prime Minister and his government made a mistake when they relaxed immigration controls.

"You people now want to rule this country. You want to take our jobs. You don’t want to start at the bottom like we had to do when we started working. When you start work, you want to start right at the top and with all the perks... company car... company house... an allowance for your children to study at the best schools in the country ...

“I know why the Prime Minister is allowing so many of you into the country. It’s because he wants you to vote for him and his party ... but I'll tell you this, he’s going to lose the next elections specifically because he’s allowed too many of you into the country.”

I was sweating.

“You should put two signs on your door,” I said. “One should say, ‘Black People Not Allowed’ and the other one should say, ‘Asylum Seekers Not Allowed.’ Or, better still, you could represent it graphically.”

I took a notebook and two pens from his side of the desk and drew a large red circle. I put a large X in the middle of the circle with the ends of the X touching the circumference of the circle so that the whole thing looked like a pie chart. In the middle, from one end of the circle to the other, using the black pen, I wrote, ‘Black People.’ Immediately below that I drew another sign representing that asylum seekers were not allowed in the surgery and I put the pens on the notebook and pushed the notebook to him.

For a moment, he looked like he was about to call a sign maker to ask him to make the posters.

When I got back to the hostel, I went straight to bed and slept. I missed supper. I couldn’t wake up.

I don’t think I’ll be seeing Dr Croft again. I doubt that he can see me as a person. When he looks at me, he sees a black person and an asylum seeker. And black people and asylum seekers are like pigeons, there are too many of them in the UK.

Monday, 13 August 2007

March 27, ____.

My application for political asylum has failed.

I've been told I’ll no longer be receiving the weekly subsistence allowance that I've been getting from NASS.

I've been given two weeks to leave the hostel where I‘ve been living for the past two years. I’ve been told that if I don’t leave the hostel, the accommodation service provider will call the police.

I've been told the IOM will help me return to my country of origin and that if I fail to make myself available to the IOM, the Home Office will come after me and forcibly remove me from Britain.