Columnist's life... and death

HARARE - The recent Sadc summit in reminded me of my career as a columnist in the region — in Southern and  Northern Rhodesia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

For a time, a few years ago, I wrote a column, under my name, in the Johannesburg newspaper The Sowetan.

One day, while in London in 2008, a friend told me on the internet from Johannesburg that my column had not appeared that week.

Did he know why? I asked. No. Did I? he asked. No. I didn’t.

I was never officially informed why the column had been dropped.

Someone suggested, rather darkly, that there was a political element involved.

Then I was invited to write a column for The Lesotho Times, published in Maseru and edited by a Zimbabwean.

Everything went well, until the editor was suddenly fired, apparently by the publisher — another Zimbabwean working from South Africa. The fired editor said he planned to launch his
own weekly newspaper.

His former publisher would not hear of it: he would take legal action to stop the new venture.

As of this moment, the matter has not been settled legally. I am owed for the columns published before the paper was stopped. Needless to say, that money would come in very handy in
my current situation.

The prospect of an immediate settlement of the quarrel seems remote.

The editor is not giving up. Neither is the publisher, it would seem.

Previously, I had written for an online outfit published in London by a group of Zimbabwean journalists, some of them previously on the staff of The Daily News, banned by thegovernment in 2003.

Another online outfit did a story which speculated that The Herald had employed me as deputy editor. The speculation was that the government newspaper was trying to be broadminded —
I was not known to be a devotee of government publications.

Soon after that story appeared, the online edition which had published my column under the nom-de-plume of Chenjerai Chitsaru, dropped me from their list of columnists. Anyone
working for the government media had no room in any independent online outfit — that was the message.

My career with them was ruined, as had my career as a BBC correspondent in Zimbabwe. I had worked for them in Zambia, until my forced departure in 1980. It was almost routine that I
would continue to work for them from Harare, which I did — until this bombshell from Zimpapers.

The truth was this: Zimpapers had signed me on a six-month contract as a sub-editor.

My working hours totalled less than four hours a day.

I did not write anything for them, let alone a regular column or a feature. I was a sub-editor/proof reader.

I had worked for Zimpapers for ten years (1980-90), writing a column under the pen-name Comrade Muromo. I was told to stop after Tommy Sithole replaced Farayi Munyuki as editor of
The Herald.

But as editor of The Sunday News around this period, I introduced A View from the Matopos, under the curious nickname of Muchandida Madoda.

I am not sure, to this day, why many readers were not impressed by the nom-de-plume.

There have been other incidents involving my work as a columnist which have left me dumbfounded by the reaction of some people to what a columnist decides ought to be the subject of comment or ridicule or just plain censure.

The columnist must be hard-hitting to be worth reading.

Even if this leads to an early “death”, it’s  all worth it, otherwise what’s the point?

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