By UK Bureau
LEEDS: Council officials here have vowed backing for the Zimbabwe Leeds Community (ZLC), offering support for the group as it works to unite Zimbabweans and help with their integration into this West Yorkshire city.
Established in 2016, ZLC now boasts a membership of more than 200 Zimbabweans living in Leeds and nearby cities.
The group held its elective annual general meeting (AGM) last weekend with Solomon Mupandawana elected new chairman, taking over from Tawanda Chikukwa.
Mupandawana will be deputised by Ruth Mutanda while Kireto Mushava becomes new secretary general and Sekai Garikayi his deputy. Innocent Tasara was retained as treasurer.
The AGM was attended by Leeds council officials Shaid Mahmoud (Chief Officer for Communities), Annette Morris (Voluntary Action Leeds) and councillor Sharon Hamilton.
Addressing the gathering, Mahmoud said; “The vibrancy in this room is absolutely fantastic.
When I walked through the door and I heard the music, and the laughter I knew was going to enjoy a short contribution to what you are doing.
“Congratulations on your exercise in democracy Mr Chairman and the rest of the executive. These are incredibly important statements in a city like Leeds; really important statements.
“They are important because the leader of the council has set a vision that Leeds will be in the future and is now a welcoming and compassionate city.
“We don’t always get everything absolutely right I think it’s fair to say but this is a great city to live in.”
He continued; “I’ve been here for quite a number of years; born and bred in Pakistan.
“I came here when I was one-year-old, and I’ve pretty much been here ever since. I’ve grown up here, been educated here and worked here.
“I hope the fact that ‘m the chief officer communities with a number of other roles that are pretty senior is hopefully testimony to what can be achieved if you work hard, you integrate and rub alongside other communities really well.
“That’s what Leeds is very about; what we are trying to do as a council is make sure that we create an environment where communities get along with each other very well and its fantastic that you said you are going to reach out to everybody.
“It’s great that the chairman is reaching out to the Zimbabwean community as a whole, but I also urge you to reach out to other communities that equally are trying to find their feet and establish themselves and make their lives here as well.”
Meanwhile, speaking to NewZimbabwe.com after the elections, the new chairman said he was pleased members had come together to ensure a successful AGM after the intense and robust debates which characterised the lead-up to the elections.
Everything was done in a true community spirit where those who were rivals before the event were now standing united as brothers,” said Mupandawana.
“Once the election process was over, as well as during and after the celebratory party, a spirit of unity was already evident. ZLC belongs to everyone and the passion and desire was quite evident to all present.”
Looking ahead, Mupandawana said would, among other things, “promote ZLC beyond our own community so that we become relevant in the wider West Yorkshire region.
“I also plan to encourage a sense of pride in our heritage within our children so that they can identify with our culture and customs and be able to speak our mother tongues.
“This is very important because our children are our future. If we fail to do this our children will lose their roots and identity.”
MORE AGM IMAGES;