Belfast Telegraph

Zimbabwe-born Belfast councillor's 'hope' after military intervention

By Jonathan Bell

A Belfast councillor who was born and raised in Zimbabwe has spoken of her hope the country returns to what she once knew it to be after a military intervention.

A night of unrest saw the military in the African country take control.

The 93-year-old Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe was said to be "fine" however the leader is confined to his home.

It is thought the army are trying to put an end to the president's succession plans.

South Africa's ministers of defence and state security are being sent to Zimbabwe to meet with Mr Mugabe and the military.

Foreign Security Boris Johnson said, on Tuesday afternoon, the ongoing situation was fluid. Prime Minister Theresa May said any British nationals in the country should stay in-doors.

Security concerns forced Alliance south Belfast councillor Kate Nicholl's family to leave the country when she was 13 in 2000.

There has been speculation of a military coup, but the military's supporters praised it as a "bloodless correction".

"It's a coup in all but name," Belfast councillor Kate Nicholl told the Belfast Telegraph.

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A man reads the front page of a special edition of The Herald newspaper about the crisis in Zimbabwe with the headline 'No military takeover - ZDF' on November 15, 2017 in Harare. Pic: Wires

The Alliance south Belfast councillor was born and raised in Zimbabwe until her family left over security concerns at the turn of the century. Her Holywood-born father brought his family back to Northern Ireland as he felt it safer. Her South-African born mother and extended family have a long history of campaigning against apartheid.

"My parents moved to Zimbabwe  when it was an exciting and emerging new country. For me as a child growing up it was an amazing experience. At one point I even thought Mugabe was the greatest man there was.

"I attended a racially integrated school and my generation would have been one of the first to grow up without the type of racism that had previously dogged the country."

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Kate Nicholl

Around the year 2000 rioting broke out and soon aggressive moves to claim land by war veterans who felt they deserved more for their military service took place and security for Kate and her family became a concern.

"A friend's father began carrying a gun all the time and then a classmate's father was shot on his farm. We took the decision to leave for the security of Belfast."

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(FILES) This file photo taken on November 08, 2017 shows Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe addressing party members and supporters gathered at his party headquarters to show support to Grace Mugabe becoming the party's next Vice President after the dismissal of Emerson Mnangagwa. Pic: Wires

Mugabe has been president of Zimbabwe since 1987 and the military intervention is the first time he has faced opposition from his generals.

"He was revered for what he achieved," Kate added.

"Zimbabwe was always considered the bread basket of Africa, but it has a complex character and history. Mugabe never got the love Mandela did, he was admired but he has clung to power.

"But the country has changed since I lived there and the people have suffered. It is difficult to see a man in an army uniform on the television saying what had happened, I am not sure that can be good for anyone. The army tend only to be interested in their needs.

"My friends out there say they see it as an opportunity for change and hopefully that materialises. This move is about succession, who will rule the country and hopefully there is a plan but it has to be for the people.

"The Zimbabwean people deserve better and I only hope something better comes from this for them.

"I just hope it stays peaceful."

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An armoured personnel carrier stations at an intersection as Zimbabwean soldiers regulate traffic in Harare on November 15, 2017. Pic Wires

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