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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 June, 2004, 15:31 GMT 16:31 UK
Zimbabwe asylum network exposed
Zanu PF supporter
Members of Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF party have been claiming asylum
An illegal network has channelled hundreds of members of Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF party into Britain, a BBC investigation has found.

Birmingham-based Zimbabwean Community UK is thought to have given fake documents to party members and coached them on how to falsely claim asylum.

Undercover reporters for Radio 5 Live were sold a Home Office letter granting asylum and a national insurance number.

But the chairman of the organisation said the allegations were false.

Albert Matapo said his group provided support and medical help for Zimbabweans in Britain.

He said: "Whatever the BBC is saying is absolutely false.

"Most of our people here, what they come for is traditional help. We offer traditional assistance."

The Home Office has said it will be investigating the BBC's evidence.

Zimbabwean Community UK was created last year with an initial 5,000 grant of lottery money.

Director Albert Matapo claimed to have smuggled in the adult children of several members of Zimbabwe's cabinet by saying they were members of the opposition MDC party.

Talking politics

The organisation's ledger book showed Mr Matapo had processed more than 1,000 clients.

Radio 5 Live sent along an undercover reporter who had been told he would be able to con his way into Britain.

In an interview re-recorded using actors Mr Matapo's wife is heard to stop the reporter speaking until he shows her the payment for the deal.

After that Mr Matapo comes in and explains how to fool the Home Office.

Woman with food aid
The government blames drought for food shortages

He says: "For the purpose of winning, we advise you to tell the white man that you are a member of the MDC. How can you tell the white man that you are Zanu PF when you want to stay in this country?

"We will teach you the one, two, threes of the MDC so that when you are asked who the president is you can immediately say Morgan Tsvangirai.

"But we are not teaching you to be an MDC supporter. Do you get what I am saying? So when we start talking about politics, don't assume that we want you to be in politics. All we are telling you is what the white man will ask you, what he wants to hear."

People are bringing the Zimbabwean corruption and fraudulent system into this country.
Head of the MDC party in Britain Washington Ali

Head of the opposition MDC party in Britain Washington Ali told Radio 5 Live: "It's a very worrisome situation where people are bringing the Zimbabwean corruption and fraudulent system into this country.

"What's worrying is that we've got a number of genuine asylum seekers, including some of our senior membership who are failing to get these claims and then the fake people are getting claims like this.

"I think it's really a challenge to the British Government to deal with these people."

The revelation comes amid evidence that increasing numbers of prominent Zanu PF members are coming to Britain to escape the deteriorating situation in their homeland.

Members of President Robert Mugabe's government and senior members of Zanu PF are banned from entering the European Union.

Three months ago, the bankers responsible for the Zanu PF's finances relocated to this country, the investigation found.

Zimbabwe is grappling with an economy in tatters and severe food shortages, which led to fears of famine in 2003.

Aid agencies and critics partly blamed the shortages on a controversial land reform programme; the government blamed a long-running drought.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Matthew Chapman
"An organisation... created last year with an initial 5,000 grant of lottery money"



SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Zimbabwe
14 Feb 04  |  Country profiles
Zimbabwe slams 'treacherous' UN
17 Jun 04  |  Africa


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