Zim-born lawyer runs for UK Parliament

ZIMBABWE born attorney Primerose Chiguri (nee Makunzva) is making a bid for the Westminster Parliament in the snap June election which has been called by Conservative premier Theresa May. Despite previously voting Labour and also being a ‘Remainer’, Primerose is running as an independent in the pro-Conservative and pro-Brexit constituency of Rochester and Strood.

The London attorney explained to NewZimbabwe.com why she has decided to join active politics and why she is confident of victory. She does not see the fact she voted ‘Remain’ in the Brexit referendum as a disadvantage, pointing out that Prime Minister May, who is widely expected to coast to a landslide victory, also voted to remain in the European Union.

First a bit of bio; who is Primerose Chiguri (nee Makunzva)?

Primerose Chiguri (nee Makunzva) LLB (hons) LLM is a practising Solicitor and Co- founder of a London based Law Firm. She has spent the last 13 years of her career defending and safeguarding the rights of individuals in the United Kingdom. She lives with her husband Ronald in the Rochester and Strood Constituency where she is running for Member of UK Parliament as an independent candidate.

She strongly believes that she is in a better position to serve the people of her constituency as an independent candidate because she will not be restricted along party lines. Primerose is passionate about getting justice for the people irrespective of their background and she would like to use her experience as a lawyer to advocate for the change that the people of Rochester and Strood would like to see in their community.

Is this your first foray into active politics?

Yes, it is.

Why have you decided to run for Parliament?

There are many reasons why I am running. One of the reasons is that I believe in making a difference in people’s lives and that is all I have been doing in my career thus far. Running for Parliament feels right at this stage as I realise I can make a bigger difference at the legislative level where I can influence the laws and policies that affect people’s lives.

Like many other people, I have problems with the main political parties at the moment and I do not think that they represent my views. I also felt disappointed by the way the politicians have been behaving and the way the Government has been running for the past 7 years. We have had 7 years of austerity under a Tory Government which has resulted in many challenges for the public services in this country. The NHS has been struggling for a while and yet the Government has not been making a lot of effort to tackle this. Social Care is also facing its own challenges and the Government is not doing enough to address the problems. I do not see how they change things in 5 years which they have failed to do in 7 years.

I also think that Politicians have not behaved responsibly on a number of issues such as Brexit. The Brexit Campaign was terrible because the politicians were not telling the truth. The labour party is in disarray and I am not sure which direction that party is going on at the moment.

What makes you think you have a chance?

I am passionate about social justice and getting results for people. I believe I have what it takes to represent the people of my constituency. I am certainly ready for this step at this stage in my life and it feels that my career so far has been preparing me for this. There are many people out there who are dissatisfied with the main political parties. From my discussions with people in my constituency, I have realised that people feel that they are not being listened to by the politicians. Some people also feel that they are not happy with any of the political parties. They feel that there is not much choice for them from the parties that are already there. My career has been about listening to my clients who come from various backgrounds and nationalities and representing their best interests. Now I want to do that for my constituents.

You’re running as an independent, that means you don’t have the infrastructure of an organised political party backing your bid, is that not a disadvantage?

Actually, I see this as my advantage in this race. I do not have the baggage that the main political parties have. I am not intimidated by the fact that I do not have the infrastructure of an organised political structure. Across the English Channel, we saw Emmanuel Macron an independent candidate winning the French Presidential Election without the Infrastructure of an organised political party. I am more convinced that one does not need an organised political party in order to win an election.

I am also of the opinion that being independent also makes me flexible when it comes to representing my constituents. I will not be restricted along party lines when it comes to issues that affect people in my constituency. Already, the campaign has got off to a really great start and I have had overwhelming support from the people in the constituency who are fed up with the main political parties.

You have voted labour before, why are you not supporting the party in this election?

I have lost faith in Labour. I do not like the way Jeremy Corbyn has been leading the party so far and I am not clear on the party’s direction moving forward. The party is not united and Mr Corbyn has not done well in uniting the party which makes me wonder how he can lead a country if he cannot unite his own party. I also do not agree with some of his policies and I did not see his leadership during the Brexit campaign.

What are the main issues affecting the community of Rochester and Strood and how do you hope to address them?

There are many issues affecting people in Rochester and Strood and it’s not possible for me to mention all of them in this interview. They include; Problems with public services such as difficulties getting GP appointments, long waiting times for operations at Medway hospital, long waiting times in the A and E department, terrible working conditions for doctors, nurses, GPs and other health care workers who are overworked. Medway hospital remains understaffed and the people who work there are finding it very difficult to continue working there.

I have also heard of patients being given make shift beds on the floor due to shortage of beds. In the past, there has been a problem of high mortality rates at the hospital which led to it being placed under special measures until things improved but still the hospital is currently rated as requiring improvement by the CQC so its performance is not yet at the satisfactory level. I know this is a nationwide problem with the NHS not one unique to our constituency but it’s not just right because it is all down to Government priorities.

I would campaign for more nurses, doctors, GPs and other Health Care workers to improve the care that residents get. Just recently, the Royal College of Nursing attacked the Government for dangerously low staff levels in hospitals which is placing patient safety at risk. The figures revealed by RCN showed that there are currently 40,000 unfilled vacancies in the NHS. Nurses are not taking up these posts because of the low pay being offered and the working conditions in the NHS. I think this must be the government’s priority and I would focus on making sure that our local hospital gets the support it needs.

There are many other issues in the community which are affecting residents which include anti-social behaviour which the police have no capacity to deal with because they are also under staffed.  Latest statistics show that police officer numbers in England and Wales have fallen by 19,000 since 2010. In my area, residents are frustrated by anti-social behavior most of it from young people. They cannot confront them over this because they are afraid of them. The police won’t take action because they have other matters to take care of. There are also security concerns in the area because of Gipsy settlers who have settled in the area. Residents are frustrated that the police will not act swiftly and remove them. Again, this is all down to the fact that there aren’t enough police around to deal with all of these issues. I would tirelessly campaign for more funding for the local authority to cater for the police force and recruitment of more police officers. For more about the issues in my constituency and what I will be campaigning for please visit my campaign website at www.campaign4prim.com

The constituency is currently held by the Conservatives with a huge majority of over 7,000; you think you can overturn that and win?

Absolutely! Anything is possible. At the moment, I know that there are many people who are disgruntled. The Conservative Government has been in power for 7 years and this has not brought much change for people. I have been encouraged by some of the residents I have met so far on the campaign who just want someone who will listen to them.

The constituency is also prime Brexit territory and actually voted UKIP in 2014; you are a ‘Remainer’, doesn’t that put you at a massive disadvantage?

Not at all. We have a Prime Minister who was also a Remainer. Having voted to remain in Europe does not mean that I cannot support the democratic will of the people of the United Kingdom. This is a democratic country. People have voted. The issue now is how the Government handles Brexit.

Brexit itself is a major issue in this election; where do you stand and how do you think the government should handle negotiations with the EU?

I think the Brexit vote should be respected. The people have spoken. However, how Brexit is handled by the government is what we need to discuss in this country. I think the Government should not push for a hard Brexit as this could damage the economy and lead to a loss of many jobs. People did not vote to become poorer. That was not what Brexit was about. I also feel that since Brexit is such an important issue, the Government should allow Parliament to vote on the deal. 

I listened to the Prime Minister’s speech when she announced that we would have this snap election and I didn’t like what I heard from her. It sounded to me like she wants to silence all opposition and go about Brexit anyway the Tory Government wants and I think that is wrong. We need a strong opposition in Parliament as that is all part of a democratic society. We will need a strong opposition to ensure that the Conservative Government will not push for a Brexit which does not work for many people. I do not think the Tory party has a good track record on representing the working class so I will not be surprised if they are not very worried about how a hard Brexit could lead to many job losses. Since 2010, they have introduced Employment Tribunal fees which are making it difficult for people to enforce their rights in the Employment tribunals and they have allowed zero-hours contracts which many workers are not happy with.

Lastly, immigration is another key election issue; where do you stand?

I think that some politicians, especially from Conservative and UKIP, have behaved appallingly on this subject and they have not been very honest to the public on this subject. They have seen the fears of the people when it comes to Immigration and they have played up to those fears to the maximum which has led to such an anti-immigration sentiment in this country which I think is wrong. The majority of migrants work hard. I will give an example of the NHS. Most Doctors and nurses in the NHS are from a Migrant background and they are doing great work saving lives there. They are not happy about the fact that the Government is always talking about immigration in a negative way despite their contributions to this country. Other migrants are working in other vital areas and contributing immensely to the system but Politicians have not been keen to talk about this side of immigration and how immigration has been good to this country and enhanced its culture and economy.

And related to this issue, Boris Johnson has called for and calls for illegal immigrants to be granted amnesty after Brexit; you view on that?

On 19th June 2016, I listened to Boris Johnson’s speech on immigration ahead of Brexit. He stated that he is in favour of an amnesty for all illegal immigrants who have lived in this country for at least 12 years. He stated that he thought this was a humane thing to do which made sense economically. I agree with him. I have encountered nurses and other health care workers who are UK trained and they have been here for over 12 years but the Home Office will not give them any status in the UK which defies logic because these people are needed in the NHS.

I have also encountered families with children and other migrants who have so much potential stuck in the limbo because the home Office will not document them. An amnesty would probably resolve the cases of people who are in the system giving the government a fresh start on immigration as they begin to work out the new system which will apply after Brexit.