Public should know the truth about Olley Maruma

FIRST of all let me say that I am not a regular reader of your newspaper.


The only time I do so is when friends confront me about something that has been written

about me in it. As a Pan Africanist, I find it vexatious reading your paper. It is like imbibing regular doses of a potentially lethal poison.


I also find the self-hatred of some of your neo-colonised black readers inflammatory and nauseating. Many of them sound like born-losers. David Maponga’s letter was so vitriolic and puerile — I will not dignify it with a response. As long as I make people like him so hateful of progressive Africans, I know I am serving pan-Africanism well. I will leave it to your readers to decide who is daft, Maponga or me.


I do not have much time for born losers like Bothwell Chipangura, whose letter labelled me “a sell-out” because he is probably talking about himself and imagining we were at some time fellow travellers. Sadly for him, the contents of his letter are both false and defamatory that I am thinking of taking legal action against both him and your newspaper.


Not only did his letter peddle patent falsehoods about me, it was clearly intended to be malicious. Which means it was libelous. The editor of your newspaper should know that it is libelous to publish a defamatory letter without checking the veracity of its claims.


Chipangura wrote: “What the Zimbabwean general public does not know (about me) or remember is that Maruma began his journalist career under the tutelage of the white racist Rhodesians while working for the then Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation (RBC) as a newsreader in 1978.”


Chipangura continues: “I still remember hearing him read the news telling the whole nation with enthusiasm how the Rhodesian security forces had butchered “terrorists” (by this he meant Zipra and Zanla guerrillas). What kind of Pan Africanist would spew such venom at liberation forces . . .?”

Now the general public of Zimbabwe should be told the truth. I was kicked out of Goromonzi High School for taking part in the 1971 student demonstrations that rocked the country. I left Zimbabwe in 1972 through Malawi, hitched across a war-torn Mozambique to Swaziland where I was given a British passport since I was a British subject then.


I left Africa for Britain where I did my “A” Levels and proceeded to read law at the University of Kent at Canterbury. At the University of Kent I joined Zanu. The other members of my branch were Henry Muradzikwa, who later became the editor of the Sunday Mail, Alois Mlambo, who is a lecturer at UZ, Musa Zimunya, the poet and lecturer at UZ, Richard Schwartz, an expert on Zimbabwean and African trade whose father was the founder of Caps, the pharmaceutical concern, Eddie Monteiro, who later started the Forum opposition party, Watson Chidawanyika who now works for the World Bank, and Rino Zhuwarara, who is the chief executive of ZBH.

At university one of my law tutors was Claire Palley, the late vice-president Joshua Nkomo’s legal adviser.


I graduated from the University of Kent with an honours degree in 1978 and then made arrangements to pursue a pupilage under the tutelage of Byron Hove, who was then a barrister at his chambers at 11 King’s Bench Walk at the Inns of Court in London.


Some time before I could commence my pupilage, my prospective mentor, Hove, was offered a ministerial post as Minister of Law and Order by the “internal settlement” government of Abel Muzorewa, Ndabaningi Sithole, Ian Smith and Chief Chirau. He accepted. I was immediately left without a mentor.


Fatefully, Hove was kicked out of the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian government after a few months after a row with his co-minister, Hilary Squires, who is now a judge in South Africa. Hove had called for the speedy indigenisation of the police force.


I applied for a place at the British Council Media Department in London and I was awarded a scholarship to do vocational training in television production there for a year, including a three-month attachment at the British Broadcasting Corporation’s current affairs department at Kensington House.

My mentor there was Nick Ross, one of Britain’s best-known broadcasters.

I returned to Zimbabwe during the Lancaster House Conference. As I recall, Zimbabwe had then reverted to being Southern Rhodesia, a British colony under the administration of governor Lord Soames.


On my return I applied for a job at what was then the ZRBC. Chipangura’s “white racist Rhodesians” turned me down for the job I had applied for but offered me a post as a trainee sub-editor in the newsroom. For the obvious reasons, I turned them down.


But while I was there, Jim Robinson, who was responsible for grooming newsreaders said he liked my voice. Did I want to audition for the news? I did and for a while, I read the late night news, the 10 o’clock news.


Now, since there was by now cease-fire negotiated at the Lancaster House Conference, how could I read “enthusiastically about how Rhodesian security forces had butchered ‘terrorists’?”


Strangely, a few weeks after the Patriotic Front’s election victory in 1980, I got a telephone call from the “white racist Rhodesians” offering me the job of producer/director, the job I had originally applied for.


I know the conviction of my views frightens some people, especially those who I do not have a high opinion of. I do not suffer fools gladly. But in expressing my opinion I try to avoid being gratuitously provocative, which, it seems, is the favourite dish at your newspaper.


So deliberately trying to tarnish my name and reputation by writing blatant lies to newspapers is clearly unacceptable and unforgivable. Those who do so must confront our system of justice.


Olley Maruma,

Harare.