'I feared for my life'

HARARE - Daily News Senior Writer, Fungi Kwaramba gives a personal account of the day in Marondera that the First Lady Grace Mugabe instilled the fear of God in private media journalists.

THE tense atmosphere at the rally was almost palpable, and the summer sun intense was punishing as I and a group of other journalists sat silently as we received the mother of all shellackings from First Lady Grace Mugabe.

The day was Friday, October 17; the venue Marondera’s Rudhaka Stadium. The “auspicious” occasion was Grace’s final so-called “Meet the People” rally.

Earlier in the day, some visibly inebriated Zanu PF yobs had been separated from each other by the police. And for reasons best known to themselves. They went out of their way to make it hard for me as a journalist to gather the facts around these disturbances.

“Pasi neDaily News, pasi neGamatox” (down with the Daily News, down with Gamatox), chanted the provincial chairpersons of the Zanu PF youth wing. And all of a sudden, the private media was accused of advancing the interests of a “certain faction” of the party.

My heart started pounding as the youths made these inflammatory slogans, unwisely taking some comfort in the fact that the First Lady, who wants to be seen as the mother of the nation, as well as a coterie of government ministers, were in our midst.

My fears were well-placed, bearing in mind what had happened in Manicaland a fortnight ago, when Zanu PF youths had engaged in fierce running battles among themselves. In Marondera, it had taken the vigilant police to save the day.

Thus, it was clear, given these unsavoury intra-party violent clashes, that the Zanu PF youths would not think twice about harming a mere Daily News reporter like me.

I made a mental calculation of the number of steps that I would need to take to get to safety, in the event that I got attacked by the hired thugs.

A little bit of a confession here: I was determined in that event to run as fast as possible, to take cover under the legs of Jonathan Moyo, the minister of Information, who was seated close by!

But as frightening as the drunk yobs were, they were nothing compared to the nightmare that was to come.

As we continued to sit half-dazed and pensive where we were, taking fitful notes like the diligent and hard-working journalists most of us aspire to be — at the same time silently beseeching the Good Lord to push the hands of time forward and therefore end our mental torture — the main actor on the day was planning her assault on us.

I watched her in utter shock as she exchanged unpleasant words with Mashonaland East provincial chairman Ray Kaukonde, following the furious gestures with growing bewilderment.

At the top table, emotions and tempers were evidently high, I observed, pointing this out to distracted friends. We took note of that.

And then finally, Grace took to the podium and launching a diatribe against the so-called factional leaders. Most surprisingly, however, only one camp in Zanu PF was in the firing line.

As she got into her rhythm, she tore into the cancerous corruption scourge that is eating at the heart of our nation. I prematurely uttered a barely audible Amen to that, silently praying for names.

Disappointingly, she offered none, leaving the gathered reporters to reach their own conclusions and to interpret her sensational but cryptic allegations their own way.

In all this unfolding drama, I was sitting directly across the high table, watching in awe as Grace, who happens to be my home girl from Chikomba District, flex her muscles — leaving little doubt in the minds of both her opponents and supporters that she was the all-powerful wife to what the Italians refer to as the Capo di tutti Capi: the boss of all bosses.

Suddenly, and without warning, she left the corrupt politicians, rowdy party youths, and the other not-so-topical issues and turned her spotlight on the news hounds. And just like that, I became the subject of her speech, unwittingly finding myself at the mercy of thousands of prying, curious eyes.

At this point dear readers, I discovered, to my embarrassment, that I was sweating.

“Ndiudzei anonyepa ndeupi? WekuDaily News ndeupi? Hona varikutarisa pasi. Daily News ndeupi?” (Which one here is from the Daily News? Look now how embarrassed they are? Which one is from the Daily News?” she enquired menacingly.

As she thundered, I tried my hardest to look down at the grass, fearful of looking up and scared to bits that I was being left open to possible violence. And of the horror of all horrors, that I could actually be forced to stand up by over-enthusiastic party apparatchiks.

I have to admit that I have never felt so small and so scared in my whole life. I felt exposed and vulnerable, imagining what the blood-thirsty drunken youths, who were chanting the anti-Daily News slogans could do to me.

Remember dear readers that I have seen people being bludgeoned at political rallies before, and as the First Lady roared on, I actually wished that the ground could open and swallow me up. Of course it didn’t, silly me.

I listened further as the now not so-amazing Grace claimed that I earned a measly $200 a month, and that I was being bribed by unnamed politicians to denigrate the Mugabes.

Can anything be more serious or “treasonous” in Zimbabwe?

Now, the drunken yobs looked seriously pissed off with me (excuse the French), with some of them threatening to mete out instant justice on me.

I attempted to join my State media colleagues who were engaging in nervous laughter, but it wasn’t possible. Judith Makwanya, that veteran and most “loyal” ZBC correspondent, looked at us, chiding me for continuing to write notes as Her Royal Highness addressed me.

For even though I was scared, I kept on taking notes like the dedicated newspaperman I am!

Well, it was just about the only other thing I could do actually, apart from looking at the grass!

“Let’s not love money that way. Sure unganyorere kupihwa $200 chaiyo wondisvibisa kudaro (How can you be bribed with $200 to tarnish my image),” Grace rumbled on.

While you are internalising all this dear readers, please pray for me, bearing in mind that Mrs Mugabe has already boasted that she successfully prayed to God for the death of Heidi Holland, an author who allegedly cast her in bad light in a book, Dinner with Mugabe.

As a journalist though, I try to understand the world and make sense of it. And to use Grace’s own words, we interpret what those in power say in their speeches.

Despite the threats, and my fear of the First Lady’s death-inducing prayers, I am still determined to pursue the truth, and to help make heads and tail of what people like Grace say or plan to do in our beloved country.

And after her tirade against me and the Daily News, I quickly concealed my notebook and pen in my trouser pocket and went to the top table, partly to exchange pleasantries with some politburo members I knew, and also to disarm and dissuade the baying youths from showing any more interest in me.

Then it was off to the safety of our offices in Harare, and home.

What a close shave.

The question that I’m now wrestling with is what it is that can ever make me forget that horrible day.

And what does “Amai” think of it, if it even registers in her presidential conscience?

Comments (21)

Cry beloved Country!!!!

UNCLE REAL - 21 October 2014

hehehehehe....I feel for u bro.One thing you have to know is than death and life are in the power of God and in the power of your own tongue.....Both Grace and you are children of God (demi gods)so its her word against yours.If you stand for the truth and it is the truth indeed then my dear Lord Jesus will protect you for He himself is the way,the TRUTH and the life.........Some of these people think that their positions are permanent but time will tell....As powerful as she is,no part of the constitution gives her power to declare anything in Zimbabwe.She is just the wife of the President........The Americans are not too weak to remove these dictators but they have a very important principle about these dictators which i also think we as a country should adopt concerning our own situation.''LET NATURE TAKE ITS COURSE''.Stay strong Mr Reporter,the day is coming.She aint going to be the first lady forever.Sometimes when i think of the worst happening to the old man i feel pity for HER.That same week she will lose access to the so MAGNIFICENT STATE HOUSE.and to make matters worse she doesnt even think about it.stay blessed my man

chamhamha - 21 October 2014

Why should anyone of us have to live with any fear at all. It is not of God. We must tear down that stronghold of fear in Jesus name.

NBS - 21 October 2014

This is the reason why people will continue to cast aspersions on Grace's ability to lead worse still to be the head of the women's league-every time she takes to the podium people run for the hills-nekuvanyarira, she is clueless almost about anything. To all and everybody's surprise she's deemed to be Zanu's newly found weapon and the best characteristic of this weapon is that it can only fire backwards....lol

ZIM - 21 October 2014

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GALLERYCARTRIDGES - 21 October 2014

This Fungi Kwaramba seems to be aiming for an award of some sort. How can you be afraid of being attacked by some youth in a high security area near the high table. Who was going to do that embarrassing the first Lady. It was going to make sense if you were afraid of attacks after the rally. This seems to be brown envelope Journalism for sure.

mbatatisi - 21 October 2014

Mbatatisi, you are so daft! Of course the reporter feared to be attacked after the rally! That's why he quickly put away his notebook and pen when the speech was concluded. You can only know what it feels like when you are in that situation so bugger off!

Dana Jones - 21 October 2014

Wake up Mbatatisi. Don't be so blinkered. See beyond patronage.

jojo - 21 October 2014

Fungi Kwaramba this guy is such a genius he writes with breathtaking articles with so much skill, i read DN everyday and i know Fungi's articles without looking up for the writer

Liberator - 21 October 2014

Jojo chenjera. Vaimubeta masikati machena apa. Inotamba nepolitics here.....aah iwe unofira mahara ukaita kashort history in the media. Asi your family will not replace you

Clemence Tashaya - 21 October 2014

ITWO TWUMA JOURNOS TWE-DAILY NEWS MUCHINYANYA!!...always seeking to sensationalise anything & everything!! Remember, your "predecessor" paper once reported that a mother had been beheaded by "Zanu PF thugs" in front of her own very young children??!!

ZVOKWADI - 21 October 2014

You are a Daily news senior writer and you write about fear? My friend ziva kuti unebasa, apa I have a feeling that you might have left some very important things to write about . But I still salute you nokuti you went on to write about how grace mugabe threatened you and daily news.

chipazhamongo - 22 October 2014

From some people like zvokwadi mbatatisi ( I hope his brains are not potato brains) and reason here I can now understand why mediocrity of Mugabes is celebrated as heroism.

maita - 22 October 2014

muchinda uyu anonyora zvakanaka but kune shasha inonzi musona. The guy writes with clarity and flow immeasurable. he has a gift. the only problem i have with him is that he has an idealogy that seems to down play black people. otherwise, he writes with prowess and in my view could do much better that most of the journos we have in zim today. take away his colonial stuff and you have a great writer. kudos to musona.

taurai - 22 October 2014

Dai uri kuprimary ndiyo nyaya yawainyora parondedzero iya inonzi "zuva randisikanganwe"

Mai Jefule - 22 October 2014

The media do tear apart public figures, and these days they trash especially Grace Mugabe. So if it is not wrong for the Daily News to trash Grace, why does it become wrong for Grace to trash the Daily News. Does your paper want the trashing only to be one way? Regai Gire ataurewo zvaanoda, manga manyanya kungomutaurawo. It's only fair.

machakachaka - 22 October 2014

NO, not at all you sing for your supper, the whole episode was shown on ZTV, AND CLEARLY YOU WERE ASHAMED FOR BEING PUBLICLY EXPOSED. Is it not that every shit you write about the first lady is in the public domain, and anyway the so call dangerous youths you are referring to you are just normal human beings better than you. It is your conscience and false hood your used to spread which actually terrorized you, and you are not a journalist but an armature puppet political activist.

reason - 23 October 2014

I do agree with you reason, all in full co lour on TV. Daily News writers were embarrassed totally. There was no threat of any sot. These writers are poor souls who being used!

dungas - 23 October 2014

The writer should know that such incidencies come with the profession he signed up for. In a bar enjoying drinks with friends is a more appropiate place to share your story of how you almost pissed in your pants, not a national newspaper. If a two year civil war were to break out and you were assigned to cover it, how many times would we have to hear from you about how scared you were?

Dr Know - 23 October 2014

Mbatatisi wake up and smell the coffee. If the youths were fighting each other before the high table then what could possibly stop them from attacking a defenceless journalist. Good work journo

mukanya - 23 October 2014

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