The executive committee of the Britain Zimbabwe Society (BZS) convened at Oriel College for the first time last month. The committee had previously held their meetings at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford. Diana Jeater, Professor of African history at the University of Liverpool and member of BZS, said that it was a delight to return to Oxford, adding, “to one of its more beautiful colleges.”
BZS was founded in 1981 in Oxford as a friendship society, with a view to increasing mutual knowledge, understanding and respect between people in Britain and then-newly-independent Zimbabwe.
The society is independent of any government and political party.
Among the early members of BZS were a diverse array of business people, diplomats, journalists, film-makers and academics, all of whom had developed close relationships with Zimbabwe during its long struggle towards independence.
There were also many teachers from Britain who were recruited under a scheme to provide support to the Zimbabwe’s rapidly-expanding education system, as well as Zimbabweans who were based in the U.K. or newly-arrived in the U.K. as students.
A huge range of grassroots organisations connecting people in Britain and Zimbabwe flourished after the latter obtained independence. With its expansive network of contacts, BZS became an invaluable umbrella organisation.
By the end of the 1980s, the society had settled into its current pattern of hosting two main events each year — a “research day,” showcasing new research on Zimbabwe, and an “awayday,” which changes its venue each year and focuses on a variety of different themes.
The political and economic situation in Zimbabwe began to change from the late 1990s. As a result, more Zimbabweans began to arrive in the U.K. as migrants and asylum seekers — a trend that continues today. BZS plays an important role in connecting and fostering a community between Zimbabweans living in the U.K.
The current chair of BZS, Millius Palayiwa (1979, Law), was a student at Oriel at the same time as the Provost, Lord Mendoza (1978, Geography).
Over recent years, Oriel College has taken steps to address the legacy of Cecil Rhodes and colonialism.
You can read about how Oriel supports equality, diversity and inclusion here.