Mr Bango: Join the heroes

HARARE - What I consider the seminal picture of my four years at the Daily News shows me and Davison Maruziva, the deputy editor, staring in shock at the mangled heap of metal that had been our small second-hand printing press.

In 2001, in the Harare industrial sites, where it was located since 1998, the “enemy” had planted a bomb which had blown the press to bits.

Fortunately, noone was hurt.

But the next edition of the paper was printed on the bigger and newer press of the Financial Gazette.

The editor, Trevor Ncube, agreed to help us as fellow members of the independent media fraternity.

Images of this horrendous scene flooded back into my mind last week, as I read the story of a road accident in which William Bango, a one-time Daily News news editor, had died.

He was 62, nearly 15 years my junior. I had known him for years before we both joined the newspaper.

In Belvedere suburb, we lived in the same neighbourhood, he in a block of flats and me in a house nearby. We developed a simpatico relationship on the basis of our jobs in journalism.

He was then working for Ziana, while I laboured for tuppence  at the state-owned Zimbabwe Newspapers.

I had joined them in 1980, upon my return from 17 turbulent years in Zambia, from which I had been shooed away by, then president Kenneth Kaunda.

This was before the government had muscled in with a grant from Nigeria to buy out South Africa’s Argus Press.

For me, Bango was one of many young people who joined the paper almost at its launch.

Most could probably not resist the temptation of joining such a pioneering venture.

It was recognised that the paper would be like no other in Zimbabwe. It would challenge the circulation hegemony of The Herald, reaching 120 000 to the other’s 40 000.

Upon its closure by the government in 2003, there were many casualties. Former reporters, sub-editors, proof-readers and photographers tried to re-launch their careers elsewhere in the country or outside.

Some succeeded, but others wandered the streets. There were not many journalists’ jobs, the government papers being out of bounds for scribes who had hobnobbed with the independent media.

The casualty list was long. Some left the country altogether. Others stuck it out in Zimbabwe, but the government’s scare-mongering after the paper’s closure reverberated throughout the land: journalism was in deep trouble.

Among the most senior former Daily News people to succumb were Leo Hatugari and Lawrence Chikuvira, who died fairly young.

Fortunately for Bango, he was not news editor when four of us were locked up at Harare central police station in 2002: Geoff Nyarota, John Gambanga, Sam Munyavi and I spent eight or more hours at the police station over a story we had published.

A High Court judge ordered our release after midnight.

The next time I saw Bango was in Morgan Tsvangirai’s office at Harvest House.

He is the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change which had snatched 57 seats from Zanu PF in the watershed elections of 2000.

An American magazine had asked me to write them a profile of Tsvangirai.

Bango was his media person and we interacted as I went about putting together a profile of the former trade unionist who had scared the political wits out of the veteran nationalist, Robert Mugabe.

The accusation was made publicly that the MDC had been aided in their election performance by The Daily News.

This could never be substantiated in anyway.

Still, I would say: William Bango, please take a bow.

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