Seizure was churlish, pointless Mr President

Dear Mr Mugabe, CONFISCATING the passport of Zimbabwe Independent publisher Trevor Ncube was not only churlish, pointless, heartless and singularly childish, but your continued harassment of these independent media owners is an insult to

all those journalists who put you in power in the first place.


I am talking about those many journalists, me included, who suffered the wrath and ignominy of Ian Smith’s government in their attempt to tell the truth to the world about the iniquities of his regime and the logic of installing a democratically-elected government.


Smith gagged, banned and harassed the press. He put local and foreign journalists in jail. As a representative of UPI, BBC and NBC, I was arrested 17 times in three months, but at least I had no doubt that I was right and the Rhodesian police and intelligence services were wrong.


Now, you are doing exactly what Smith did. Only worse. Your megalomania will result in more Zimbabweans dying at your hands than at Smith’s. Your treatment of the press in your country is reminiscent of that meted out by the apartheid regime in South Africa in the 1980s.


Your shutting down newspapers reminds me of watching the SA security police storm into editor Harvey Tyson’s office with court orders to close down The Star.


Your harassment of journalists reminds me of the conversation I used to have with New Nation editor Zwelakhe Sisulu about how tough it was trying to run a newspaper under a banning order.


You have proved yourselves as bad as the regime you toppled. And every bit as bad as the apartheid government of which you were so critical.


But worst of all, you have insulted all those journalists who risked imprisonment and severe harassment to tell the truth to the world.


You have insulted the memory of courageous journalists such as Don Royale of Associated Press and George Clay of NBC and countless others who died in Africa trying to tell the world of the disastrous legacy of colonialism.


Ncube is now stuck in Zimbabwe, unable to return to South Africa to run the Mail & Guardian — a newspaper he owns and loves. And which he has raised to new heights and standards of journalism.


These childish efforts of yours might have some effect on twisting the truth in your own state media and keeping the truth from the independent papers also owned by Ncube. But, there is nothing on earth you can do to prevent, even in the slightest, media criticism from outside of your borders.


The Mail & Guardian is a world-class newspaper with enormous integrity and stature. It will not, I am sure, cease its continued exposé of your megalomania. And alongside it you can expect every other South African newspaper from the Sunday Times to the Sowetan, The Star, The Sun, Beeld, Rapport, Business Day and the rest, to keep telling the world how you have failed your people, your media and those journalists who, when you were fighting for the freedom of your land, you called your friends.


We are no longer your friends because we just don’t like people who lie to us.


Chris Moerdyk,

Foreign correspondent,

Zimbabwe 1960s.