Zimbabweans scale dizzy heights in the UK

Dr Masimba Mavaza

In a discussion with some Zimbabweans who have migrated to the United Kingdom, a question was asked on how does it feel to be an immigrant.  

Lovemore Nganununu, a specialist medical doctor paused at that question. I heard a steadying intake of breath over the phone. 

When he spoke again, it was with notes of both pride and reserve. 

“We are not immigrants, do you understand?” he said. “We were invited here, we are guests of the government. They needed doctors and here we are.”

Yes, it was a very correct response, the Bristish have opened their doors wide open and many nationalities have grabbed the opportunity to work in that country. 

Many Zimbabweans have taken a conscious decision to step away from the word ‘immigrant’ and the politics it embodies. 

It is a decision to step into the stories of those who have left their homes behind to find the many worlds beyond.

It is a decision where many Zimbabweans have lived to enjoy. Zimbabweans have made it to the highest level in their different fields in the UK. 

The Zimbabwean in the UK has made stories which show an aspiration to recast stories of migration.

The idea of flying away from Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport for the last time, plunging your whole life in the world of unknown, such is the bravery of the Zimbabweans abroad. 

 Joana Mapfunde from Luton said: “My family migrated endlessly. The first journey was from Zimbabwe to England, but then we moved back and forth, settling and re-settling. Each one of us within the family looking for our own individual versions of belonging. Finally, we have now settled in the UK.”

Makanaka Mutodi, a nurse in the UK said: “My father had left his home behind once already in Zimbabwe, the belonging he craved was to a place that no longer existed. My mother’s belonging was to her own mother – the only grandparent I had remaining at the time we decided to return to Zimbabwe when I was aged nine. 

“I saw my paternal grandparents three times in those years. Flying a family of four, then five back home on a single salary is a once in a two to three year kind of a trip and that too with considerable saving and sacrifice. 

“My father, being a doctor, we lived for all of those years in hospital accommodation. We didn’t buy a house because we never intended to stay in England forever. Now I am still here and regretting the time I spent without buying a house. Home is where you are now, make it your palace.” 

Robert Shanduka who left his job as a financial advisor and came to the UK said: “There was a time when steeped in the rhetoric of immigration I did not see my journey for what it was – an immense act of bravery. 

“It was a different world back then; for many, it still is. For those who are far from home, far from loved ones, the heartache of distance in some moments is unbearable. But looking back I have more advantages and sweet memories. 

“I am now a lawyer and would not have achieved this if I had remained in Zimbabwe. Now I am going back home to develop my country and enrich those who need my help.”

At the moment, the NHS has a long tradition of employing staff from overseas, with significant recruitment drives for clinical staff and the health and care staff. 

More recently, government figures indicated that nearly 14 percent of NHS staff say that their nationality is not British; and just over 20 percent of NHS staff are from non-white ethnic groups. 

There are so many notable people from Zimbabwe in the UK. 

For example, the Zimbabwe and Notts County football player Adam Chicksen, former England cricketer Nick Compton and lead singer of Coldplay, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and philanthropist Chris Martin.

In a remarkable story of triumph, some Zimbabwean immigrants are now Britain’s most successful in the immigrant community. 

From arriving with only the clothes on their backs, some Zimbabweans have risen to the top in all walks of British life.

Three years ago, the citizens of Corby gave councillor Tafadzwa Chikoto, a Zimbabwean, the great honour and opportunity to serve them as councillor, deputy mayor and eventually mayor. 

Maggie Chapman (born 27 June 1979) is a Zimbabwean-Scottish politician and lecturer who is a Scottish Green Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for North East Scotland. 

She was co-convenor of the Scottish Greens from November 2013 to August 2019, serving with Patrick Harvie, and was the party’s lead candidate for the 2019 European election. 

Chapman made history by becoming the first Scottish legislator to take oath in the European country’s parliament in the Shona language.

The 41-year-old lawmaker was born in Zimbabwe and despite relocating to Scotland, has maintained her links with Zimbabwe.

Chapman is a Member of Parliament of the Scottish Green Party representing North East Scotland.

She took her affirmation in Shona, translating it from the English language in which it should be officially done.

“Ini Maggie Chapman ndinotsidza nemoyo wangu wese kuti ndichave mutsigiri anovimbika uye akatendeka wamambokadzi Elizabeth navose vachatonga mushure mavo ndichiita zvose izvi pamutemo,” she said taking her affirmation in Shona. 

We have over 15 Zimbabwean councillors in the UK and hundreds more all over the world. 

Zimbabwe has many more footballers playing in the UK.   

This has put Zimbabwe on the map. There are several Zimbabweans in high positions too in the UK. 

While it is an obvious brain drain, Zimbabweans have made their country proud. 

Migration has opened doors and removed bridges. There is no doubt that Zimbabwe shines in the Diaspora. 

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