UK denies visas to members of Zimbabwe’s female anti-poaching unit

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The UK’s decision to deny visas for two pioneering female anti-poaching rangers to attend an awards ceremony has been criticised by organisers.

Zimbabwean Nyaradzo Hoto and a colleague were due to accept an award for the team on 3 November.

But Ms Hoto’s trip, her first outside Zimbabwe, was called off after visitor visa applications were rejected.

Zimbabwe International Women Awards (Ziwa) created the Founder’s Award specifically to honour the unit known as Akashinga, which means the brave ones in Shona.

In a rejection letter, the Home Office cited Ms. Hoto’s and Petronella Chigumbura’s lack of financial assets and property, suggesting they were not genuine visitors and could try to remain in the UK.

She says her daughter Tariro tells her how proud she is now that her mum protects wildlife.

“I’m someone from a tough background, so I’m working hard to fill in the potholes of my life,” the star ranger, who featured in a BBC short documentary, explains.

“I couldn’t understand the rejection, it’s not fair.”

The group of British women who founded Ziwa say they were gutted when Ms. Hoto and Ms. Chigumbura were denied their visas.

“The awards are there to change the narrative of African women,” Rhoda Molife, one of the founders of Ziwa and a former doctor in the UK’s National Health Service, told the BBC.

“Other Zimbabwean and South African nominees got their visas,” she added.

The organisation, which wrote letters supporting the rangers’ visa applications, believes their socio-economic background negatively affected the outcome.

A Home Office spokesperson told the BBC that the women’s personal and financial circumstances were “considered on their individual merits”.

“The onus is on the applicant to demonstrate that they satisfy the immigration rules,” the spokesperson added.