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Jonathan Milne: To allow Mugabe’s man to stay would be foolish; to send him back to Zimbabwe would be criminal


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Jonathan Milne: To allow Mugabe's man to stay would be foolish; to send him back to Zimbabwe would be criminal

JONATHAN MILNE 11:39, February 12 2017

PHILIMON BULAWAYO / REUTERS

Zimbabwe anti-riot police beat up a man as they disperse protesters in the capital Harare.
OPINION: Here and now, this is where arguments about taking in refugees become very real. This is where the principles of those who call for more refugees are truly put to the test. This is where the rubber hits the road.

Our journalist Jacques Steenkamp's investigation, revealing that one of Mugabe's brutal secret police is in New Zealand and seeking refugee status, should cause all those who uncritically champion asylum seekers to take pause for thought.

At the bidding of Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe, William Nduku killed. He raped. He tortured. By his own estimation, he has been involved in up to 20 murders. And now, after flying in on a fake South African passport, he is in New Zealand and seeking to become a Kiwi.

Nduku tells us he served in Mugabe's feared secret police only under duress. And when he tried to get away, they came after him.

READ MORE: Ex-Zimbabwe hired killer stuck in limbo in NZ

He wants to turn over a new leaf, to make a new life in New Zealand, but has been refused asylum. Assisted by respected immigration lawyer Deborah Manning, he is challenging that decision.

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Manning is the lawyer who represented Ahmed Zaoui; her conscientious work fighting to overturn ill-informed prejudice against the Algerian asylum seeker was outstanding.

But Nduku is no Ahmed Zaoui. Nobody will wave placards for Nduku; nobody will wear "Free William Nduku" t-shirts.

In recent months, the refugee debate has become a crude proxy for one's position on nationalist politicians like Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and Winston Peters.

Trump supporters fear refugees whom they see as closet terrorists taking advantage of our humanity; those who oppose Trump are more often those who support increasing our refugee quota.

That's not good enough. Decisions on who we let into New Zealand must be made on the merits of each individual case, not as a reflection of our own personal politics.

So spare a thought for Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, because those decisions simply don't come any tougher than this one.

Many, many New Zealanders – perhaps most – will very understandably say our nation should not be accepting a person who has been party to the some of the most reprehensible crimes of the corrupt Mugabe regime. That William Nduku should rot in a prison cell for the rest of his life, not be allowed to make a new start in compassionate New Zealand.

Would we be so forgiving to someone who confessed to involvement in 20 ​murders in New Zealand? Of course not.

Is there a realistic chance of him rehabilitating and integrating into New Zealand society? Unlikely. He has seen too much. The images he must see when he shuts his eyes and tries to sleep are unimaginable.

But there's the rub: if we send him back to Zimbabwe, it will be to his death. There is no way Mugabe will tolerate someone who has fled his secret police and blown the whistle on its abuses. Nduku knows where the skeletons are buried.

Our government can't comment on individual applications for protected person or refugee status. But it seems certain that Woodhouse will be looking for a middle-ground; another nation that is willing to accept Nduku as a refugee. It is unlikely he will find one.

To allow him to stay would be foolish. To send him back to Zimbabwe would be criminal.

I won't often say this, but if you're someone who believes in a God, pray for Michael Woodhouse. None of us would want this decision on our conscience.​

Sunday Star Times


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