Journalism before 1980

by Shingirai Huni | Sunday, Apr 19, 2015 | 2695 views

Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
WHEN the Zimbabwean independence struggle gained momentum from about 1960 onwards, the country’s public print media targeted two racial readership groups, one predominantly African and the other white (European).
Newspapers targeting the black readership were published by a company called African Newspapers (Pvt) Ltd whose major shareholder and founder was Mr CAG Paver, a Southern Rhodesian whiteman of the liberal political mould. The white readership depended on newspapers published by the Argus Company, a Cape Town-based organisation.

Mr Paver launched African Newspapers in the mid-1940s with the publication of two newspapers, The Bantu Mirror and The African Weekly. The Bantu Mirror was a weekend (Saturday) paper and The African Weekly was published on Wednesdays.

The two newspapers’ target readership was an emerging African elite, notably school teachers, urban factory workers and aspiring black farmers at the head of whom were what were called agricultural demonstrators, abalimisi in siNdebele and Madomeni in chiShona.

The two newspapers also targeted Christian communities, particularly those living on mission farms such as Empandeni, Embakwe, Tegwane, Dombodema, Inyathi, Hope Fountain, Gokomere, Kutama, Waddilove, Kwenda, Mount Selinda and a number of others located in what were named “Native Reserves”, later called Communal Lands and finally Tribal Trust lands (TTLs).

The Bantu Mirror and the African Weekly published a great deal more agricultural news and educational material than most likely any other subject. They carried, however, some religious, health and other social material about black communities.

Two prominent black people headed the editorial teams of those publications. They were both former schoolteachers: one was Mike Masotsha Hove who was initially based in Bulawayo, and the other was Jasper Zengeza Savanhu, who lived and worked in Salisbury (now Harare).

Both these men in the early 1950s supported the same political party, the Federal Party, as their boss Mr Paver, and were later seconded as Press attaches to diplomatic missions of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland abroad. Savanhu was based in London and Hove in Lagos (Nigeria).

Their editorial positions at African Newspapers were taken over by two other former schoolteachers, Nathan Shamuyarira and Kingsley Dinga Dube.

By that time, African nationalism was beginning to take more or less a definable direction, and so were the editorial policies of the African Newspapers publications whose number had increased in 1960 by the launching of The Daily News and The Eagle, the latter earmarked for Nyasaland in particular.

Another publication launched by African Newspapers in the early 1950s was a monthly magazine, The Central African Parade, however popularly called “The Parade,” in short.

Kingsley Dinga Dube was given the editor’s position of the Parade, a post he held for a brief period before he left to join the Federal Government diplomatic mission in Washington (DC) as Press attache. Dube was a Fort Hare University graduate, and had joined Dadaya Mission teaching staff after graduation. He was recruited by Mr Paver for African Newspapers in the 1950s.

It is interesting to recall that Kingsley Dinga Dube interviewed Robert Mugabe about his professional plans after Mugabe had returned from South Africa with two university degrees.

Mugabe told Dube that he would not teach in Southern Rhodesia because he did not like the country’s policy of racial discrimination, also known as “colour bar.” He went to teach at Chalimlana Teachers’ College, some 30km east of Lusaka in Zambia, but later left for Takoradi Teachers’ College in the Gold Coast, now Ghana.

Dube’s position at The Parade was taken over by Davies Mugabe, a former schoolteacher who introduced a medium of black nationalist politics onto the pages of that predominantly black-read monthly. Davies Mugabe, whose clan was based in Masvingo and not in Mashonaland West as that of Robert Mugabe, later joined Zanu and left for the United States where he studied and taught. He later joined Zanu-PF in Mozambique.

His editor’s position at The Parade was filled by Richard Chikosi, a rather docile man with a very cautious, if not fearful, civil servant’s type of mentality. He was succeeded after a brief period by an able but non-political journalist, Tinos Guvi.

The Parade played a rather insignificant role in the politically violatile period of the early 1960s very much unlike The Daily News, first under the editorship of Nathan Shamuyarira who was, in fact, a Zimbabwe African People Union (Zapu) national councillor.

Shamuyarira was later sacked following the change of the African Newspaper (Pvt) Ltd’s ownership from Mr Paver to Lord Thornson of Fleet in 1963, and the appointment of Mr Derrick James as the managing editor. Mr Paver remained as the managing director.

The editorial team at that time comprised Mr James, Mr Seaton who was the chief sub-editor; and Mark Davidson, the news editor; these three were British expatriates who believed that Southern Rhodesia was first and foremost an African country whose supreme political authority was the British government by dint of, first, subterfuge and, second, military conquest.

Indigenous editorial team members were Philip Mbofana, production editor and a staunch supporter of Mr Paver’s party, the United Federal Party; Obadiah Chiromo, assistant production editor; Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu, features and reader’s views editor, Charles Kadzirange, sports editor; Edward Nheta, Weekend Daily News supplements editor; Sotayi Katsere, political editor; Andy Kanyowa, chief court reporter; Austin Zvoma, parliamentary reporter, Arthur Patsanza, general reporter; Bester Kanyama, chief photographer; Cephas Mkwedeya, photographer: John Mawuluka, photographer; Edna Machirori, cub — reporter; Henry Matambo, photographer and Kingsley Sambo, creed-room artist.

Mrs Agneline Mhlanga, nee Makwavarara, was the editor of The Parade’s women’s section. At the reception was the vivacious, articulate and evergreen Ebba Mukarakati assisted by the soft-spoken Mrs Gift Shumba.

The workers department was managed by Mr Wilson, a highly qualified linotypist whose immediate assistant was John Chirisa, a prominent Zapu national councillor.

The editorial news reporting policy and practical approach was that since the overwhelming majority of The Daily News readers were Africans (black people) of Southern Rhodesia, its news ought to be, by the same fact, predominantly about and from the black community.

Court stories ought to reflect that fact, sports stories the same approach, and so must the newspapers’ municipal and political stories and photographs.

In Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) most white, even some black, missionaries supported the gradual enfranchisement of the black people on the basis of educational qualifications and/or monthly financial earnings. A multi-racial liberal organisation called “The Central African Party — Cap” promoted that policy.

The Cap called for gradual racial de-segregation of some social and cultural services and facilities such as schools, hotels, restaurants, churches and means of public transport, especially trains and buses.

But the black people to be allowed to share the same services and facilities as the white, Indian and coloured communities would have been required to have a reasonably high educational achievement and/or economic status. These were to be decided by the white colonial administration.

That was the wishy-washy policy more or less advocated by the Daily News during its early days, at the time when Dr Banda called it “The Daily Nonsense”.

Two people who appeared to have correctly interpreted Dr Banda’s criticism of that newspaper were Nathan Shamuyarira, its editor, and Kelvin Mlenga, sub-editor at that time.

The Bantu Mirror and The African Weekly ceased publication sometime after The Daily News was launched.
That newspaper appeared to have been jolted into a realistic policy by Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s critical comments at a Highfield rally when he referred to it as “The Daily Nonsense”. At that time, that newspaper’s editorial political opinions supported gradualism based on meritocracy, an old-fashioned British colonial policy created by paternalistic Christian missionaries such as the Rev Herbert Carter and the Rev Percy Ibbotson of the Methodist (Wesleyan) Church.

By 1963, the Southern Rhodesia political landscape was moving towards racial polarisation. The Federation was about to be dissolved, and both Nyasaland (Malawi) and Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) were to become independent sooner than later.

The majority of the white people of Southern Rhodesia became disillusioned, and in a general election held in December 1963, they rejected the United Federal Party of Sir Roy Welensky (the Federal Prime Minister) and Sir Edgar Whitehead (the Southern Rhodesia premier).

The RF made no bones about the fact that it would demand independence for Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from Britain under a white government. If the British Government refused to grant the country independence under a white regime, the RF leadership said it would declare it unilaterally. The RF members were outright racialists and were not ashamed of it.

At one luncheon meeting organised by the Southern Rhodesia National Affairs Association at Salisbury’s Duthie Hall, RF’s Walter Clifford Dupont physically clashed with Robert Mugabe who was at that time the Zapu Publicity and Information Secretary. Tempers flared and fists flew, and Dupont who was publicly known to be sufferer of fits, was carried unconscious from the stage. It was an alarming experience.

The Daily News was there, of course, and published the exciting story the following day. The bone of contention between the two speakers, RF’s Dupont and Zapu’s Mugabe was that Dupont repeatedly said the African people were not educated enough to administer any country, and that the RF would not let Southern Rhodesia experience what he termed “the rot” that had been experienced in the Congo and elsewhere in West Africa.

Mugabe responded by describing colonialism as an out-dated, immoral and rotten system and that those benefiting from it in Southern Rhodesia had better pack up their bags and baggage and be ready to leave for their original home countries sooner than later.

Dupont had said something about the Southern Rhodesia franchise of that period being based on what he described as “majority rule” in that the party that was voted for by the majority formed the government. He said that was the RF’s policy.

Mugabe responded to that by saying that the RF’s policy reflected a lack of understanding of meanings of English words in that it regarded a majority of a racial minority as a democratic justification to oppress, disenfranchise, displace, dispossess and exploit an overwhelming national majority.

He said a majority of a minority is still a minority when compared to a majority of a national majority. Dupont was a lawyer, and Mugabe is by profession an educationist. The Daily News editorial opinion the following day regretted the physical clash or commotion but agreed with Cde Mugabe’s clarification of “majority rule”.

So, when the RF got into power, it regarded The Daily News as a dangerous thorn in its racialist policies. The first indication that the RF regime would not tolerate any media criticism was the arrest of the author of this article for allegedly insulting African chiefs in an innocuous opinion piece in which he said the traditional leaders must always remember that they were their people’s spokesmen, and not the government’s messengers. He was fined 100 pounds (sterling).

The second incident used by the RF administration to ban The Daily News, was The Daily News visit to Gonakudzingwa (literally meaning “the place of the banished”) where Joshua Nkomo, Josiah Chinamano, Mrs Ruth Chinamano, Daniel Madzimbamuto, Joseph Msika and Stanislaus Marembo were detained in early 1964.

The Daily News team that went to that hot, remote area in the lowveld, a stone’s throw from the south-eastern Zimbabwe-Mozambique border was led by the news editor, Mark Davidson. The other members were the photographer, Bester Kanyama and the driver, John Chitima.

On getting to Gonakudzingwa, the team sent back by intercom copy of their historic interview with Joshua Nkomo. I typed it as Mark Davidson dictated it.

No sooner had I submitted to the appropriate senior authorities for perusal that a high powered team of police officers, burst into the newsroom.

The police contingent leader, a superintendent, ordered me to produce a licence for the intercom system we were using. I referred them to Mr Mbofana.

The police took away copies of the story from Gonakudzingwa, and that was the beginning of the end of The Daily News. A day or two later, Dupont moved a motion in parliament to ban that newspaper, and the company was ordered to shut down.

The Daily News had fought a good battle to present news as it was, graphically and photographically. It had lost that battle to the Rhodesian Front fascism which would later adversely affect the Argus at that time predominantly white-read newspapers: The Herald, The Sunday Mail, The Manica Post, The Chronicle and The Sunday News.

The RF regime, true to its word, unilaterally declared independence at 1pm on 11 November 1965. It immediately imposed censorship on the public media. To show their abhorrence of the Nazi-like censorship measure, the Argus stable newspapers adopted a strange but rather embarrassing practice (to the RF regime) decision to leave blank spaces on pages where the RF regime’s censor’s pencil would have cancelled a story or whatever article.

It was rather ironic that newspapers of the Argus company, originally a newspaper organisation in which Cecil John Rhodes was the major shareholder, differed with the RF on what to publish. The RF, by the way, publicly claimed to be promoting Cecil John Rhodes’ imperialistic, white settlerism and supremacy.

Mr Paver and his fellow-liberals were deeply distressed by, first, the political polarisation in the country, and, second, the proscription of The Daily News, a development that occurred a couple of months after the company had installed what was then the most advanced newspaper printing machine in the world.

I quietly left the country for Northern Rhodesia where I joined Zapu and immediately launched that organisation’s official mouthpiece, the Zimbabwe Review, initially a cyclostyled weekly which later became a highly respectable quarterly printed by the Berlin (German Democratic Republic) offices of the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO).

For some reason I have never known or understood, Mr Paver and Mr Mbofana came to Lusaka in the later part of 1964, contacted me from the Ridgeway Hotel, and when I went to see them, told me that they very much wished to see the topmost Zapu leaders.

I took their message to George Nyandoro, the then Zapu secretary general, who after consulting his national executive colleagues, Robert James Dambaza Chikerema, Jason “Ziyapapa” Moyo (JZ) Tacirssius George Silundika(TG) and Edward Mbakhwa Ndlovu, told me to go back and tell them that the Zapu leaders would not see them.

I did as I was ordered, and also kept that matter from the media in Zambia. However, I had a feeling that the two were representing an organisation rather than only themselves. Both men died before independence in 1980. Had they been alive by that time, I could have found out what their mission to Lusaka was.

Among the journalists who were part of The Daily News at one time or another, Nathan Shamuyarira returned home to be the first Zimbabwean Minister of Information. He had become a doctor of philosophy in political science, having studied in the United States. He returned to Africa to lecture at Dar es Salaam University before joining Zanu fulltime in Zambia.

He later moved to Mozambique where he played a big part in that organisation’s (Zanu) information and publicity department. He died recently.

Kelvin Mlenga joined the Central African Mail (later Zambia Daily Mail) before The Daily News was banned. As a Zambian by nationality, he later joined one of that country’s big mining conglomerates as its chief executive officer. He died some years before Zimbabwe became independent.

Zvoma went to study in the United States, and later settled there. Obadiah Chiromo joined the Southern Rhodesia Literature Bureau, an arm of the information services whose responsibility was to publish books by aspiring black authors. He died in the 1990s.

Edward Nheta became a prominent Methodist church (Wesleyan) official in Harare where he died several years after independence. Bester Kanyama joined the regime’s information service but later retired to run his own photographic business in Harare’s Highfield high-density suburb. Mrs Angeline Mhlanga lived to see an independent Zimbabwe, so did photographer John Mawuluka and Arthur Patsanza, Sotayi Katsere, and Edna Machirori became a very renowned editor of The Chronicle in Bulawayo. She is now retired and lives in Harare.

Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo- based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. sgwakuba@gmail.com

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