We are safe, that’s the most important thing - Refugee Council
July 28, 2016

We are safe, that’s the most important thing

Twins Fabian Favourite and Fortunate Filda Frizell, 25,  left Zimbabwe in 2002 when they were ten years old. Their mother was a prominent figure in education and their step-father a founding member of the party that opposed Mugabe’s regime.

We grew up in a small village in Zimbabwe in the 1990s. There was a strong sense of community in the area and we felt safe there.

As children, we loved walking in the bush, finding fruit in the mountains, marvelling at the animals and running scared from snakes. We loved making things – footballs from old plastics bags and ropes, cars from wires. Our mother reminds us we also loved to watch kids TV programmes.

We knew we didn’t have as much as other people but our faith kept us strong and those were happy days. Our father had passed away when we were one, so it was always just the three of us.

Education had always played a big role in our lives. Our mother had been educated in missionary schools before becoming a headteacher and then responsible for regional education in Zimbabwe. She was a high-profile woman, appearing often on the TV talking about her work; she was a well known in the region.

We used to hitch hike from our village out in the bush to school in Harare and our mother was the first one to start teaching us English. She had always known the value of education: as a black Zimbabwean she was excluded from attending university in her youth and was determined for us to have this opportunity.

Later on, our mother met our step-father; he was a white Zimbabwean and a founding member of the MDC – the opposition to President Robert Mugabe’s government.

When Mugabe began to crack down on dissidents our lives changed forever.

Our mother and step-father were black listed, hunted.

On their wedding day, people came to our house to warn us – they threatened we would all be killed by the end of the night. We lived near a militia training ground, and had no doubt these threats were real.

And we were right. Young men with guns and knives arrived, the wedding guests fled into the bush and we thankfully managed to escape, taken to a friends’ house, who kept us safe. We couldn’t leave the house. When we did we were followed. We lived like this for a month. Our mother was desperate; her bank account had been totally cleared by the government, her pension confiscated. We left only with the clothes on our backs, and thankfully – she had grabbed our passports.

It was then that she told us an important secret – she had a second, undisclosed bank account where she had been saving for our university education.

We used this money to fly to the UK and when we arrived we sought asylum.

We remember arriving at Gatwick, the immigration woman separated us from our mother and took us into a small room and asked us questions. We were just young children and didn’t understand the motives behind this, or the gravity of the situation. We answered the question and had nothing to hide – to be honest; we were distracted by the Kit Kats she had left us on the table.

We had no real problem with our asylum claim – our parents’ story was all over the media. Our mother was a prominent voice, which made her an easy target.

We feel very lucky to have ended up in Canterbury – school was OK, we did sports and got involved in the local community. Teachers were keen to nourish our intellects and eventually we were accepted to Cambridge to study PPS – their version of PPE.

During our studies we had profound questions about ourselves and society at large, which studying allowed us to explore in a meaningful way.

Citizenship is something we think about every day. We feel very British but also feel passionately about doing something in Zimbabwe – aid dependency needs to stop in Africa. We’d like to establish a self-sustainable school model – one that doesn’t rely on external funds to support children.

There’s still lots we have to learn. Right now our concern is our mother’s care. She has been suffering from numerous health issues. She is the pillar, she is everything. We have each other, and we are safe, that’s the most important thing.