JOHN BOMBA, a leading Zimbabwean socialist and pro-democracy activist, should have been speaking at this year's Marxism 2003 event in London. Instead he was refused entry to Britain by the UK High Commission in Harare. Here John talks angrily about his experience.
'THE FIASCO we went through in trying to get a visa fully exposes the hypocrisy and the racist attitude of the British government in its noisy support for the struggling people of Zimbabwe. What should have been just a mere formality ended up being an expensive nightmare.
'The hostile forces that have ruined this world made it certain that I cannot travel to Marxism 2003 and share with comrades my sentiments on the crisis in Zimbabwe and the struggles that revolutionaries are engaged in. The High Commission (HC) decided I did not have the social and class position they look for in visa applications.
'The fact that we have been arrested, tortured and continue to suffer repression at the hands of the Mugabe regime - supposedly 'hated' by the British government - did not mean anything.
'I was rejected a visa, on the grounds that I could not prove my 'returnability'. The HC said it was not convinced I had strong enough economic, social and family ties to make me return to Zimbabwe.
'This is hogwash. I agree I am poor, and that is precisely why I am who I am. I am fighting for the liberation of not just Zimbabweans, but the world's disposessed and disinherited. More so, I am this poor not because there is too little food around but because someone is eating our share - hence our determination to remake the world.
'And how dare they imply that my family counts for nothing to me? This is horrifying. The visa requirements stipulated by the HC are tellingly prohibitive. Among a host of requirements, the application demands a non-refundable fee of 144,000 Zimbabwean dollars. This is equivalent to my salary for six months.
'The British High Commissioner should answer why I and millions of Zimbabweans are so poor. Indeed, he should also answer why he and the UK are so rich. Is he not so overfed precisely because I am starving? Don't his riches represent theft from people like me?
'Through this experience we know who our friends are. They are not the British government. They are those everywhere fighting against the same system that we combat.'
Abused and tortured
WHEN JOHN Bomba was released from jail last year he made the following defiant speech:
'WE GREET you comrades in the name of the struggle to bury the anarchy of capitalism and invent a new world without poverty and oppression. This is a time full of lessons for those who day to day languish under the oppressive yoke of capitalism and Mugabe's dictatorship.
'We emerge out of prison inspired by the local and international solidarity. It makes us more resolute and ready to push forward the struggle. The police reaction unit and the riot squad that descended upon our college was ready to take on a rebel army. They were armed to the teeth with baton sticks, pistols, AK-47 assault rifles and teargas canisters.
'We were rounded up and bundled into police trucks and taken to the central police station. We got there around 10am but did not get to the cells until 4pm, after long hours of being subjected to systematic beatings and despicable harassment. The cells were overcrowded, filthy, stinking badly and infested with lice. You would have to beg to get the toilet. They could let it go for the whole day without letting us go. By the third day two comrades had terrible stomach upsets and diarrhoea.
'The police would not allow us to get medical attention. The following days brought rigorous questioning and further assaults. We were threatened with death and there were incidents in which state agents would flash guns and threaten to shoot us.
'They particularly wanted to know more about my involvement with the International Socialist Organisation (ISO). They wanted to break our will.
'Our experience has deepened our convictions in the struggle. We learnt golden lessons about revolutionary solidarity. Jails cannot confine the revolutionary spirit.'