By Percy Makombe
WHEN the history of Zimbabwean journalism is told, there is no doubt in my mind that Geoff Nyarota’s name will be among the top crop of journalists who have made sacrifices and risked life and limb to tell the Zimbabwean story.
ta’s role in investigative journalism is a matter of public record not least because of his strenuous efforts that led to the revelation of the Willowvale scandal.
Indeed, the way Nyarota and his team of dedicated journalists managed to continuously churn out copy after copy of the now banned Daily News is commendable.
Much more commendable is the way they were prepared to return to work and continue with their profession even after their printing presses were bombed in what had the hallmarks of a military operation.
Nyarota and his journalists refused to be intimidated and for that they carved their place in our media history for their dedication to the cause of freedom of expression and investigative journalism.
I must however express my utter disappointment with Nyarota’s article, “Tsvangirai, Mutambara and MDC’s future”, that first appeared in the Financial Gazette (March 16).
Much more disappointing is Nyarota’s failure to acknowledge the terrible error of judgement on his part during that abominable Gukurahundi era.
At that time Nyarota was the editor of the Bulawayo-based Chronicle newspaper — a paper that was very loud in its silence as defenceless Zimbabweans were being slaughtered for their perceived PF Zapu support.
Journalists have a tendency to spin their mistakes.
In a subsequent article in the Financial Gazette (March 23), Nyarota attempts to spin his mistakes by making allusions to the different and difficult times that they were operating in at that time.
This simply does not wash, especially as evidenced by the stance that he took in the Willowvale investigations.
In 1988 then Defence minister Enos Nkala summoned Nyarota and his deputy Davison Maruziva to his offices and threatened to send the army to drag them if they refused to come.
Needless to say that both were not intimidated and went on to publish information that was regarded as sensitive in a government-controlled newspaper.
The point is that Nkala was running a whole army but Nyarota and Maruziva still refused to succumb to his threats.
This is the same stand that Nyarota should have taken during the Gukurahundi era. Having failed to take such a stand then, it is not amiss to show contrition rather than hand-wringing arrogance.
Also disturbing is not so much his attack on Welshman Ncube as his utter lack of evidence to back his claims. Nyarota takes the use of evidence to new lows.
He is convinced that Ncube was plotting a palace coup since 2002.
His evidence for this is based on information received from Elias Mudzuri and Colonel Dyke. So because Mudzuri and Dyke have said it, it must be the untainted truth.
The whole idea of Ncube sending Dyke to negotiate for coverage in the Daily News is as suspicious as it is unbelievable.
This idea we are told also had the backing of Emmerson Mnangagwa and Solomon Mujuru. Mnangagwa and Mujuru working together?
It is a sign of journalism gone awry when illustrious editors build an entire body of evidence based on information gleaned from suspicious sources.
Nyarota also accuses the pro-senate MDC faction of pursuing an MDC-Zanu PF unity pact. Indeed Nyarota makes a meal of the meetings between Patrick Chinamasa of Zanu PF and the MDC’s Ncube.
He is not the only one who seeks to make a meal out of these meetings.
It has been suggested in other circles within the MDC that Ncube took a unilateral decision to begin talks with Zanu PF and come up with a constitution as part of the process to deal with the Zimbabwe problem.
This, it is said, was done without MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai’s knowledge.
This is patently false.
And one need not look beyond Tsvangirai’s national council report to congress to see that Ncube was doing no more than what the MDC had asked him to do. This is what Tsvangirai has to say:
“After the June 2003 mass action — a time when the people shut down the country for five days — Mugabe, working with President Mbeki, revived the dialogue.
Former secretary-general Welshman Ncube and Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa began to explore a possible solution through the constitutional amendment route.
That effort was once again stalled by Zanu PF and Mugabe. The process took us nowhere.”
Arthur Mutambara is accused of making strategic miscalculations by joining the “rebel” faction.
He is also attacked for joining an “irrelevant ethnic-based clique” although little is offered in the form of evidence of why the group he prefers to join is called “irrelevant” or “ethnic-based”.
Ncube and Paul Themba Nyathi are accused of having an unhelpful “traditional attitude that the party is the exclusive preserve of the founding fathers and mothers”.
This seems to be ridiculous, for how do you attack Ncube and Nyathi for inviting Mutambara into the party and then in the same breath accuse them of wanting to keep the MDC a preserve of its founding fathers and mothers?
So what is to be done?
Nyarota’s suggestions are as clear as mud as they are an exercise in doublespeak.
He says if Mutambara or Tsvangirai are to lead Zimbabwe, then they need to have the capacity to “rally around them some of Zimbabwe’s more progressive politicians” and he gives as an example the following people:
Simba Makoni, Tendai Biti, Roy Bennett, Daniel Shumba, Francis Nhema, Oppah Muchinguri and Thokozani Khuphe.
Here is a person who throughout his article has been attacking Ncube and company for ostensibly wanting a government of national unity now proposing what by all accounts looks like a government of national unity of his own.
What exactly is going on here?
Having said all this, I still look forward to reading Nyarota’s book. Nothing will take away his achievements in Zimbabwe under a very trying environment.
As Zimbabweans, and especially as witnesses, we need to record our history so that the world will know our story, and history.
The kind of national identity that is promoted by the public media is a xenophobic kind. It will therefore be interesting to read an account of journalism in Zimbabwe from one who has both the public media and the private media experience.
To the feuding MDC camps I offer the advice of the 18th century French philosopher Voltaire. When he was invited on his deathbed to renounce the devil he replied: “This is no time for making new enemies.”
Percy Makombe was the MDC’s senior press and communications officer in the run-up to the 2002 presidential election.
By Percy Makombe