UK Zimbabweans jeer Tsvangirai as he urges them to return home

Crowd shouts PM out of cathedral pulpit, chanting 'Mugabe must go'

Zimbabwe's premier, Morgan Tsvangirai, was booed yesterday as he said to his countrymen living in Britain: "Let me tell you that Zimbabweans must come home." Mr Tsvangirai was at Southwark Cathedral in London during his first official visit to the UK.

The response to his rallying cry was not what he would have hoped for. Instead of a wave of patriotic fervour, his words unleashed jeers from thousands of exiled Zimbabweans.

The Movement for Democratic Change president appealed for the best and brightest to return to help rebuild his nation. The plea was shouted down with chants of "Mugabe must go" and calls for politicians' children to return first.

The MDC party slogan "chinja" (change), which Mr Tsvangirai used to get to power, was employed yesterday to mock his assessment of the situation in Zimbabwe, which, he said, was one of "peace and stability".

The ferocity of the crowd was such that he left the pulpit for two minutes before returning and saying: "I did not say 'pack your bags tomorrow', I said you should be thinking about coming home."

Mr Tsvangirai, who is on the last stage of a tour of Europe and the US to woo financial support, said the country had achieved a lot since the MDC entered a unity government with President Mugabe four months ago.

The service began optimistically with an emotional rendition of the national anthem and prayers for the country. The cathedral was taken over with the sound of ululations as the crowd were clearly excited by his presence, if not his message.

The mood changed quickly when Mr Tsvangirai described how he believed the country had recovered. He cited the re-opening of schools and economic improvements since the country adopted the US dollar.

But the crowd was well aware of continued doubts over the country's human rights records which have been raised this week by both Amnesty International and Women of Zimbabwe Arise.

Beatrice Mujana, a 41-year-old teacher from Harare, now living in London, was one of the Zimbabweans waiting for the PM outside the cathedral with placards deploring the country's human rights abuses. "It's irresponsible for Mr Tsvangirai to ask people to go home now," said Ms Mujana, who has two children. "There is still so much trouble; it is simply not a fair thing to ask."

Mr Tsvangirai flew into London on Friday evening when he is understood to have met dignitaries including Prince Charles. He had been in Brussels holding Zimbabwe's first official talks with the EU in seven years.

He is expected to stay in the UK until Wednesday, meeting Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, and Alistair Darling as he seeks humanitarian aid and financial support.

President Barack Obama had already pledged a further $73m in aid, but Britain and the EU have maintained that they want to see movement in the human rights situation before they consider lifting sanctions.

But Mr Tsvangirai told the IoS he was still hopeful he might change their minds: "Britain has the right to take that decision but we will put our case supporting that this process of a unity government is the best option and hope they will change their mind."

He admitted he was shocked by the crowd's reaction. "When I go out to the Zimbabweans back home this does not happen. People must give us a chance."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas