THE story of Simon Mugava, a Zimbabwean cricketer who unsuccessfully applied for political asylum in the United Kingdom, has brought into perspective the agony and struggle of a domestic cricketer in this country.
By Enock Muchinjo
Mugava, 27, who customarily married the niece of controversial Prophet Uebert Angel in the UK even as he dodged the authorities, was denied asylum by the British Home Office in February 2016 after he had sought human rights and humanitarian protection on the grounds he was an active member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who faced persecution at the hands of state security agents if he returned home to Zimbabwe.
A popular Zimbabwean cricket forum picked up Mugava’s story, published in this paper last week, and brought to the fore what a Zimbabwean professional cricketer who is not on a national contract goes through in order to adapt and survive.
The comments on the site, zimcricketforums.com, also delve into the plight of a cross-section of Zimbabweans trying to get into the UK: some are deceived by fake universities and left stranded upon entering the country.
While it might appear that only black Zimbabweans face these undesirable circumstances in the UK, comments show how whites from this country also have to go through the same processes of grilling.
“Enrolling at a non-existent university? Lol,” commented a follower named Googly.
“A few chickens have come home to roost for the English.
“I went to get my NHS number last year and get a passport as well. I dealt with a Kenyan, a Gambian, and Pakistani, never even saw a white Pom in any of the offices I visited.
“Here’s an interesting stat, the white Rhodesians that volunteered for the Second WW had the highest percentage of casualties of any group, plus most have roots in Britain, yet have been treated like pariahs, not dissimilar to the Gurkas, they have a lot to answer for.”
Gurkhas are fearsome fighters of Nepalese origin who have been part of the British Army for almost 200 years – famous for carrying their traditional weapon an 18-inch long curved knife known as the kukri.
Another forum follower, Taps, best sums up the struggles of the domestic cricketer in Zimbabwe, using Mugava as a case in point.
“Wow, this is really sad but he (Mugava) made a mistake. He shouldn’t have done that. Shows the struggles of the domestic player not on a national contract. Remember being by Centurion pub (at Harare Sports Club) once and some lads were training.
As they were done I heard them complaining that they weren’t even offered water or anything the whole day. Really sad. Most of those guys are actually just passionate about the game and waiting for their chance.”
Regular contributor CrimsonAvenger lamented what he calls lack of life training in many of the cricketers.
He wrote: “The unfortunate part is, as Muchinjo notes, he (Mugava) was already heir apparent to Prosper Utseya. He had some solid domestic performances under his belt and would have been in the mix when Utseya was ruled out due to chucking had he been around. And by now, he could have established himself as that elusive offie we have been waiting for – with some solid batting too.
“This is where the life-coaching focus of (Tatenda) Taibu’s ZRS initiative is useful for the youngsters too. Them being constantly spoken to about professionalism is very important, given the varied background people come from.”
Googly, in summarising, relates his ordeal at the hands of British immigration staff, a tale many Zimbabweans might relate to.
“Their immigration policies are upside down, when you land at Heathrow and clear immigration the line for non-citizens is massive, people wait there for 2 hours or more, and the most motley crew you’ve ever seen, and you know most have no intention of leaving any time soon,” wrote Googly.
“I had a really annoying incident there. Some of my stamps were queried in my passport by the immigration officer, I threw a turn and demanded to see the shift boss, I went into his office only to discover he was a Nigerian! I gave him both barrels as well and then had to deal with an equally unfriendly security staff. They really have lost their grip on the situation.
It’s estimated that there are close to a million Zimbabweans there now, and I’m certain a large percentage entered by dubious means. An increasing number have obviously legitimised themselves, if there’s a loophole Zimbos will find it. I’m not knocking it, all power to them.”