The defiant crusaders II

HARARE - Some brilliant defiant scribe crusaders I knew in Zimbabwe and Zambia included Willie Dzawanda Musarurwa, Kelvin Mlenga and Farayi Munyuki.

They all died relatively young.

Not all were necessarily toppled by their defiance of a system built on acquiescence to orders from above. But it would be amazing if their demise did not feature a stubborn faith in the principle — comment is fair: facts are sacred.

Musarurwa died in 1990 in Harare.

The cause of his death was shrouded in a bizarre connection with an alleged poisoning at a restaurant.

He was among journalists and diplomats at a luncheon for a new ambassador, including Geoffrey Nyarota, then at The Financial Gazette, but previously the editor of the Willowgate Scandal paper, The Chronicle, and Andy Moyse of Horizon magazine.

During the meal, Musarurwa rushed to the lavatory, violently ill, before collapsing.

There have been rumours that the target was Nyarota. Musarurwa was then writing a column for Nyarota’s newspaper.

A few months earlier, Musarurwa had been fired as the editor of The Sunday Mail, owned by Zimpapers.

A denunciation of his editorship was made by head of the State, government and Zanu PF, Robert Mugabe.

Musarurwa belonged to Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu — it was hinted he had shown anti-Zanu propensities.

Something happened between his death and burial at the Heroes Acre. Mugabe’s homage to him was mellifluous. The journalists were dumb-founded.

One of Musarurwa’s apparent “gaffes” may have been to blame Herbert Chitepo’s assassination in Lusaka on Zanu PF, not Ian Smith’s agents, as the party insisted.

I first met Musarurwa in 1957 at African Newspapers in Salisbury. He was editor of The African Weekly.

I was a trainee reporter on The African Daily News, then a year old. Musarurwa nicknamed me “Achimwene” — until George Nyandoro told him he (Nyandoro) shared a totem with my mother.

Thereafter, he called me Bill.

We next met in 1963 in Lusaka, where he was a Zapu official and I was at The Central African Mail.

When I joined The Times of Zambia and became deputy editor-in-chief, he harangued me at a Lusaka hotel for the paper’s alleged support of Zanu PF — “when President Kaunda supported Zapu”.

The newspaper had been taken over by the government, from Lonrho’s Roland “Tiny” Rowland.

But we were eventually reunited at Zimpapers at independence in 1980. I joined The Herald as an assistant to the editor, Robin Drew.

Kelvin Mlenga was related to Farayi Munyuki who came to Zambia as Albert Mvula in the 1960s to join me on the features desk of Times Newspapers.

Kelvin himself quit as editor of The Central African Mail shortly after the government takeover.

He refused to work under the Kaunda government and joined a mining company as a public relations executive.

They had told him as editor, he would take orders from the ministry of Information. He died a few years later in a car accident on the Lusaka–Kabwe road.

Munyuki was the first indigenous editor of The Herald. He would not adjust to the “edict” that government papers were State “praise singers”.

They transferred him to the government news agency, Ziana, as editor. He eventually relocated to Namibia, where he fell ill, returning home to die in Gweru.

It’s probably mischievous to suggest if you defy State orders as a government journalist, you might end up in the Great newsroom in the sky.

The idea that all newspapers, radio and TV stations in Africa always display loyalty to the rulers is founded on a phony premise: that these citizens are infallible.

Comments (4)

Tsvaga munda urime wachembera!

godfrey gudo - 31 January 2014

Great article

Max Moyo - 31 January 2014

I thought kurima kunoda vechidiki vanotemwa dzinobuda ropa. Ah hameno ndimi maborn free you know better!

Bingo Wokwa Gutu - 1 February 2014

Well done. Remember the poison business, just like the puma business, spread to many others. "persona non grata" ? and in whose eyes

Timothy - 1 February 2014

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